David Korten Brings Old and New Story Fields to the Conference

May 15, 2007

David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning, is one of the visionary Big Story people we have invited to the Story Field Conference to stimulate our thinking about what kind of story fields we actually want to promote. I was blown away by his new visionary essay CHANGE THE STORIES, CHANGE THE HUMAN COURSE, a downloadable .doc in which he vividly describes the competing story fields of Empire and Earth Community. This piece also articulates very well the rationale for the Story Field Conference. Below is the first of ten pages, to give you a taste:

The invitation to the First Annual Story Field Conference poses three questions:

  • What is the new narrative that is already calling us?
  • What stories — both ancient and emerging — are so powerfulthat they draw us to hope, to care, and to engage?
  • How can stories and the ways we tell them shift society into greater aliveness and wisdom?

The human species is on the verge of self-annihilation, and we are meeting to talk about stories. Far from being frivolous and irrelevant as some might assume, this gathering is at the cutting edge of serious change. The power to shape the stories that frame a culture is a power that ultimately trumps the coercive powers of the state and the financial power of concentrated wealth. Indeed, it is the only power that potentially trumps the power of the dysfunctional, but seemingly invulnerable institutions that currently set the human course. The three questions that will frame our discourse at Shambhala Mountain Center are among the most important questions of our time, because the work of changing the story field of modern culture has become an imperative.

For more than two decades, my work has centered on changing the economic stories that shape economic policy and practice. I did not fully understand the deeper implications of the story change work, however, until my longtime Filipino friend and colleague Nicky Perlas visited me on Bainbridge Island in 1999. An important figure in Philippine civil society and a student of Rudolph Steiner’s theories, Nicky pointed out that in a contest between coercive power, financial power, and cultural power, the ultimate advantage resides in cultural power — call it story power — which is the power to shape the values and worldview of the society.

Nicky helped me see the truth that those elements of civil society which are committed to liberating humanity from institutions of domination have a natural advantage in the domain of culture. To maintain control, the institutions of domination must justify themselves with falsified values of fabricated stories that contradict reality. By contrast, those of us devoted to the cause of justice, compassion, and sustainability need only encourage people to recognize, accept, and act on what they know in their hearts to be true.

For the rest of this great article, download this Word document – CHANGE THE STORIES, CHANGE THE HUMAN COURSE