The Caring Family Policy Agenda
As practical as it is principled, the Caring Family Policy Agenda is based on the shared core moral principles of religion and humanism: caring, compassion, justice, and nonviolence. Its principles and programs are easily articulated and have powerful emotional appeal. The Caring Family Agenda has three interacting components:
1. Children's Bill of Rights
2. Caring Family Values
3. Family-Friendly Economy
Nurturing Children’s Humanity: Partnership Education
Our rapidly changing world requires more than piecemeal educational reform. Partnership education is an integrated template for redesigning the three main components of education: content, process, and structure. This article provides examples of how partnership education can be incorporated into current classrooms, both in schools and universities. It illustrates how partnership education can help young people develop their full potentials, not only preparing them to navigate through our difficult times but providing them the knowledge and skills to help build a more peaceful, equitable, and sustainable future.
Taking Stock in Our Children: In a Time of Volatile Markets, How We Can Play the ‘Long Game’ by Investing in Our Society’s Future
by Riane Eisler and Valerie Young
October 5, 2015
When world markets convulse, people tend to think short term. But as a society, we must start focusing on what investors call the "long game" -- re-examining our economic priorities to improve and stabilize more lives over time.
Continuing to behave as we have will only prolong economic instability and the growing gap between haves and have-nots. Our skyrocketing child poverty, incarceration, and income inequality rates are not inevitable or irreversible. They are the result of policy failures, and policies can be changed -- once we re-examine and change how we think and operate.
Suppose that instead of thinking only of stock markets or interest rates, we ask what kind of economic policies and practices are good for children. What helps, or prevents, children from realizing their potentials? What makes it possible for them to be healthy, get an education, and become responsible and productive adults?
What do these child-rearing issues have to do with economics? As it turns out, everything. In our knowledge/information era, the most important capital is what economists call "high-quality human capital" -- and we know from neuroscience that this mainly hinges on the quality of early care and education children receive.
Yet the recent report, Social Wealth Economic Indicators: A New System for Evaluating Economic Prosperity, shows that our nation invests less in our children -- by far -- than other developed nations. We must change this, and a first step is usingnew economic measures. Social Wealth Economic Indicators (SWEIs) demonstrate the enormous economic contribution of the work of caring for people, starting in early childhood. These new metrics are already in use by national organizations such as the women's economic security advocates at 9to5 to promote policies such as funding for parental and sick leave, child care, and higher pay for careworkers.
SWEIs show that the devaluation of this "women's work" -- which now more men are also undertaking, as family roles shift -- causes untold suffering and is a big reason forthe disproportionate poverty of children, women, and communities of color. It is also a major obstacle to our nation's future economic success.
Picture your neighbor caring for a young child while also looking after an aging parent. Think of the parents juggling a job with their family's needs. Think of the workers, mostly women of color and immigrants, toiling long hours for less than a living wage in home, eldercare, and childcare. Visualize the children whose caregivers cannot provide them basics such as healthy food, medical care, books, and above all, the time and attention vital for human capacity development. Then, go back to what economists tell us: that the key to a robust economy in our new knowledge/service age is "high quality human capital."
SWEIs reveal that our country has the lowest public funding for early childhood education and care of any other advanced nation. They also show that the U.S. is theonly nation without nationally-funded paid parental leave, and has lower educational enrollment and scores. SWEIs further show we have a higher rate of income inequality, and the highest child poverty rates -- and that these rates are astronomical for communities of color.
So, at a time when children of color will soon be the majority of US children, our failure to invest in care not only causes enormous suffering and inequity; it is economically self-destructive. Not only that, a more equitable and caring economy is essential for real democracy. To quote from the Social Wealth Economic Indicatorsreport, "In countries where the rich own a growing share of income and wealth, the political process is inevitably captured by their interests, and the poor become objects of disenfranchisement and therefore discrimination. Social mistrust then grows and political and civil disorder become increasingly likely."
Our headlines are filled with examples of exactly this "political and civil disorder" both within and without the U.S. It stands to reason that outcomes can only be better if the inputs are better too. Provided with these connections by Social Wealth Economic Indicators, policy makers can see that greater public investment in pre-school education, support for care work in homes, and better wages for caregivers will decrease economic disparity while preparing the U.S. for the economic "long game."
SWEIs provide data on both inputs (Care Investment Indicators) and outputs(Human Capacity Indicators, and when we see both, the route from Point A to Point B emerges. These connections between inputs and outputs are the stepping-stones we can use to reach solid ground. From that ground, we can build a structural foundation to support practices and policies that much more effectively address seemingly insoluble problems such as economic instability and inequality -- and pave the way for the future we need and want.
Riane Eisler is author of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics and President of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS).
Valerie Young is a public policy analyst and advocate for women's economic security. She is Director of Outreach for CPS's Caring Economy Campaign.
Follow Riane Eisler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CaringEconomy
Realities Missing from Political Debates
Politics and entertainment used to reside in separate spheres. But in this year’s Presidential campaign coverage, they’ve converged. While this has driven up TV ratings and network incomes, it’s been a dangerous pastime for a country already behind in the things that matter.
In the heated exchange of taunts and putdowns, even the questions to candidates have ignored one of the most serious threats to US economic competitiveness: our nation’s failure to invest in our children — our future human capital. The people who want to lead this country have to start talking about this as a key economic issue. We cannot hope to lead on the world stage when we are squandering the ability of our population and hobbling our future by neglecting our children here at home.
To read more, please see our current Huffington Post article.
Whole Systems Change: A Framework & First Steps for Social/Economic Transformation
We stand at a turning point in our human adventure on Earth. Solving our unprecedented environmental, economic, technological, and social problems calls for more than just tinkering at the edges of failing systems— we need whole systems change. This, in turn, requires a fundamental cultural transformation. This article outlines key elements of such a cultural transformation. It outlines long-term actions focusing on four cornerstones, including fundamental economic changes, as foundations for a more peaceful, equitable, and sustainable future. To show how to go from proposal to action, it includes successful pilot programs testing such actions.
Human Possibilities: The Interaction of Biology and Culture
Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies Fall 2014
This article briefly describes the two main strands of a new unified theory about human nature and human possibilities: cultural transformation theory and bio-culturalism. Bio-culturalism combines findings from neuroscience about how our brains develop in interaction with our environments with findings from the study of relational dynamics, a new method of social analysis focusing on what kinds of relations—from intimate to international—a particular culture or subculture supports. Bio-culturalism recognizes that our species has a vast spectrum of genetic capacities, ranging from consciousness, caring, empathy, cooperation, and creativity to insensitivity, cruelty, exploitation, and destructiveness, and proposes that which of these capacities are expressed or inhibited largely hinges on the nature of our cultural environments. Cultural transformation theory looks at the whole span of human cultural evolution from the perspective of the tension between the contrasting configurations of the partnership system and the domination system as two underlying possibilities for structuring beliefs, institutions, and relationships. The article describes the core components of partnership- and domination-oriented societies, provides examples of each, and proposes that our future hinges on accelerating the cultural transformation from domination to partnership in our time of nuclear and biological weapons and the ever more efficient despoliation of nature, when high technology guided by an ethos of domination and conquest could take us to an evolutionary dead end.
Caring Economy in Huffington Post: Going Beyond GDP and Politics as Usual
In a Huffington Post piece on Tuesday, Riane Eisler and the Caring Economy team highlight how new ways to measure the economy not only go beyond GDP, but also go beyond politics as usual to show how new measures of economic and social well-being can be used to not only reveal structural and systematic inequities by race and gender, but also point the way to more effective business and public policies that build our nations human capital, on which economic success depends. In their article, How to Fix the Economy: Beyond GDP and Politics as Usual, the team writes:
“Today’s economy is driven by precisely those things GDP does not count. Economists tell us that developing and maintaining high-quality human capital is essential for success in this new technological era. And this is just what Social Wealth Economic Indicators or SWEIs measure…The Caring Economy Campaign developed SWEIs based on research by economists and other experts working with us to determine what is needed for government and business to adopt more effective policies and investment allocations. SWEIs compare where the U.S. stands in two basic measures: 1) Human Capacity Indicators, measuring a nation’s present human capital, and 2) Care Investment Indicators, measuring public and private investment in building and maintaining that human capital. SWEIs show our nation is doing a terrible job in both these critical measures.”
Our Great Creative Challenge: Rethinking Human Nature— and Recreating Society
Our most urgent creative challenge is building a sustainable future.
Not a Utopia, not a perfect world. But a world where peace is more than just
an interval between wars, where dire poverty, brutal oppression, insensitivity,
cruelty, and despair are no longer "just the way things are."
For millennia, we humans have imagined a world of peace, beauty,
and love. Sometimes we have imagined this world in an afterlife. But more
and more in the last centuries we have imagined it here on Earth. Now,
with terrorism, weapons proliferation, escalating wars and poverty, and
human rights abuses, there is a new urgency to realizing our common wish
for a sane, humane world.
Leading Towards Change of Ethics and Caring: Resisting Temptation and Reaping the Benefits
By Riane Eisler, Simon L. Dolan & Mario Raich
We have to look at the larger picture: not only areas traditionally
considered by business analysts and economists, but at the
whole culture – from business, economic, and political structures
to cultural beliefs and social institutions that may at first
glance seem unrelated to economics. This is ever more urgent
as we move into the knowledge/information economy, where
the most important capital is what HR experts call ‘high quality
human capital’. Producing this capital requires rules, measures,
and policies that give value, training, and support to the essential
human work of caring for people. Maintaining it requires
that businesses recognise that caring for their employees is the
best investment they can make. Indeed, among the top 5 sustainability
themes debated in a recent Davos meeting was the
need for business leaders to take care of their employees. While
many business leaders still hold the belief that ethical and caring
policies are not cost-effective, in reality, the evidence, as we will
show, is mounting that the opposite seems to be the case.
Leveraging the Corporate Ecosystem and The New Innovative Role for HRM
by Simon Dolan, Mario Raich, and Riane Eisler, Effective Executive, February 2010
This article discusses the possibilities and opportunities that exist for further exploring the corporate ecosystem. It is based on a new work that is currently in progress. It elaborates on the need to innovate in management and more specifically in people management. It is a call for HR managers to be proactive in assuming new roles connected to the leveraging of the corporate ecosystem. It is argued that by doing so, they will add value to corporate sustainability as well as to their own HR sustainability.
Cultural Transformation: Building a Partnership World
Kosmos Journal, Spring 2014
Can we build a world where our great potentials for consciousness, caring and creativity are realized? What would this more equitable, less violent world look like? How can we build it?
These questions animated my research over the past four decades. They arose very early in my life, when my parents and I narrowly escaped from Nazi Europe. Had we not been able to flee my native Vienna and later find refuge in Cuba, we would almost certainly have been killed in the Holocaust, as happened to most of my extended family.
A Time for Partnership
Reprinted from the September 1995 UNESCO Courier.
This article was the lead article for the issue, Women: one half of heaven, highlighting the United Nations Beijing Women's Conference.
Men are from Mars, proclaims a recent book title, and women are from Venus. This two-planet image vividly expresses the lingering belief that women and men are fundamentally and unalterably different.
But if it were true that women and men are inherently so different, how is it that their differences differ so much from one time and place to another? For example, in Victorian England the mark of real femininity was a "ladylike" paleness and weakness, whereas in Kenya real femininity was traditionally proved by a woman's ability to do very hard work on behalf of her family. In the Samurai Age of Japan, real masculinity was proving oneself a fierce warrior, whereas among the Hopi Indians of North America men were supposed to be peaceful, agreeable, and non-aggressive.
DoctorNot only that, but over the last decades the roles and relations of women and men have been changing at a very rapid pace. For example, large numbers of women have in many Western nations begun to do things that were once considered exclusively men's work, such as the work of doctors, plumbers, engineers, lawyers, welders and university professors-all highly paid professions and trades from which women were once barred. Similarly, men have begun to redefine fathering to include some of the "women's work" of feeding, diapering, and otherwise caring for and nurturing babies.
Moreover, even against enormous resistance, women's and men's relations have gradually become more egalitarian. At the same time, although more slowly, once firmly entrenched beliefs that men, and what men do, are more important than women and what women do, have also begun to change-with such commonplace remarks as "hope next time it's a boy" increasingly considered offensive by both new mothers and fathers.
For some people, both women and men, these changes are a source of hope for a more humane, less violent, less unjust future: one where one kind of person (be it a person of a different race, nationality, religion or sex) is no longer viewed as of a lower order than another. But for others, these changes are a source of confusion and fear, yet another complexity to be dealt with in a far too rapidly changing world.
Women, Men, and Human Relations
It is certainly true that our world has been changing very fast over the last few hundred years, so fast that, in the words of the futurologist Alvin Toffler, it has put some people in "future shock". Rapid technological and economic changes have destabilized not only established habits of work, but long-standing habits of thinking and acting. This has been the source of much dislocation and stress. But as modern history drastically demonstrates, technological and economic change has also opened the door for questioning much that was once taken for granted-be it the once supposedly divinely ordained right of kings and princes to absolute authority, or the once also supposedly divinely ordained right of men to absolute authority in the "castles" of their homes. The questioning we see all over the world today of sex roles and relations is thus part of a much larger questioning. It is also part of a much larger movement for change: the global movement toward more democratic and egalitarian relations in both the so-called private and public spheres.
In fact, once we examine the constant interaction between the private and public spheres, it is possible to see patterns or connections that were invisible in older studies, because these focused almost exclusively on the public or men's world from which women and children were excluded. These patterns or connections show something that once articulated seems self-evident: that the way a society organizes the roles and relations of the two halves of humanity- which is what men and women are-profoundly affects everything in our lives.
For example, how these roles and relations are organized is a critical factor in how a society structures the family. Societies where women's and men's roles are rigidly circumscribed, which are generally also rigidly male-dominated societies, are by and large also societies where we see a generally authoritarian, top-down family structure. Even more specifically, it tends to be a family where men rule over women and parents rule over children, with this rule ultimately backed up by fear and force. On the other hand, societies where women's and men's roles are more flexible and there is more equality between women and men tend to have more democratic families, with less socially condoned use of fear and force. Moreover, societies characterized by more rigid male dominance (where sex roles are also more rigid) are generally also more authoritarian. For example, with the rise to power of Hitler in Germany and the imposition of a brutally authoritarian and very violent regime, there was much emphasis on returning women to their "traditional" roles in a male-dominated family. Conversely, in the Scandinavian nations, strong emphasis on sexual equality has gone along with both political and economic democracy, as well as with social priority given to activities stereotypically associated with women such as child care, health care and environmental housekeeping.
A New View of the Past
Further light is shed on these connections by archaeological studies such as those of the Lithuanian-American archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, the British archaeologist James Mellaart, and the Greek archaeologist Nicolas Platon. These studies indicate that, contrary to what we have been taught, the earliest cradles of civilization were not authoritarian, male-dominant and chronically warlike. There are strong indications that these prehistoric societies (for example, Catal Huyuk in Turkey, which dates back approximately 8,000 years) were more peaceful and egalitarian societies in which, significantly, women were not dominated by men.
Thus, Platon notes that in the highly technologically developed Minoan civilization that flourished on the Mediterranean island of Crete approximately 3,500 years ago the influence of women is evident, and that this was a remarkably peaceful and prosperous society in which the whole of life was pervaded by an ardent faith in the goddess Nature " As we can still see today from their beautiful nature-celebrating art, the Minoans also seem to have had a great respect not only for women but for our Mother Earth: what we today would call an ecological consciousness.
So here again we see the variability of women's and men's roles and relations, and how these roles and relations are affected by, and in turn affect, social structure. We see that stereotypically "feminine" values such as nurturance and non-violence can be embraced by men, and that women can take on stereotypically "masculine" roles of social and religious governance. Most important, we see that neither war nor the war of the sexes is inevitable.
But I want to emphasize an important matter. There is no evidence that, because women in these societies seem to have held high social and religious positions, men were dominated by women. In other words, these societies were neither matriarchies nor patriarchies. They conformed more to what I would call a partnership rather than a dominator model of social organization: a form of organization that offers a viable alternative to the complex tensions that are inherent in relations based on domination and subordination.
Gender equity and quality of life
Indeed, if we re-examine modern history from this larger perspective, we see that underneath its many complex currents and cross-currents lies a powerful movement towards a partnership social organization, countered by strong resistance to it. We see that all the modern progressive movements have basically been movements challenging different forms of domination backed by force and fear. This is the common thread in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century rights of man, anti-slavery, anti-monarchist, socialist, pacifist and feminist movements. In the same way, the twentieth-century anti-colonialist, anti-war, participatory democracy, women's rights and economic justice movements are not isolated phenomena. They are all part of a much larger movement: the movement to create a world in which-be it in our global family of nations or in our individual families- principles of partnership rather than domination and submission are primary.
Moreover, we see that the contemporary movement toward gender equity is an integral part of this larger partnership movement. This should not surprise us, since the domination of one half of humanity by the other is a basic model for all forms of domination. Conversely, the equal valuing of the two halves of humanity teaches children from early on to value diversity, rather than seeing it as a reason for ranking superior" people over "inferior" ones. This is why those parts of our world where the movement to raise the status of women has been most successful are also more generally democratic. Even beyond this, a recent statistical survey of eighty-nine countries conducted by the Center for Partnership Studies indicates that if the movement towards sexual equality continues, we can also predict a generally higher quality of life for all.
This study, entitled "Gender Equity and the Quality of Life", shows the Scandinavian nations on the average with both the highest gender equity and the highest quality of life. It also verifies that there is a strong correlation between, on the one hand, such gender inequity indicators as substantially lower female than male literacy, high maternal mortality, and low female participation in government and, on the other, indicators of a generally lower quality of life for all such as high infant mortality, a high number of refugees fleeing a country, and a high ratio of Gross Domestic Product going to the wealthiest as opposed to the poorest 20 per cent of the population. Furthermore, the study indicates that areas where the movement for women's rights has made the least progress also tend to be those where human rights ratings are generally lower.
In short, the way in which a society structures the relations between women and men is of profound personal, social and economic significance. It is encouraging that many governments worldwide are beginning to pass laws to equalize the position of women and men, following the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This will obviously vastly improve women's quality of life. But it is also essential if we are to move to a world of greater partnership and peace, not only between men and women but between the diverse nations, races, religions and ethnic groups on our planet.
Dark Underbelly of the World’s Most ‘Peaceful’ Countries
By Riane Eisler in The Christian Science Monitor, July 26, 2007
The first-ever study ranking countries according to their level of peacefulness, the Global Peace Index, was recently published by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Sensibly, its basic premise is that "peace isn't just the absence of war; it's the absence of violence."
The index uses 24 indicators such as how many soldiers are killed, the level of violent crimes, and relations with neighboring countries.
Yet it fails to include the most prevalent form of global violence: violence against women and children, often in their own families. To put it mildly, this blind spot makes the index very inaccurate.
Glancing at the list shows why. Out of 121 countries studied, the United States ranked 96; Israel was 119. But Libya, Cuba, and China – not exactly paragons of human rights – rank 58, 59, and 60.
A closer examination reveals some of the sources of distortion. For example:
- Egypt was ranked 73. But more than 90 percent of Egyptian girls and women are subjected to genital mutilation. This gruesome practice causes many lifelong physical problems and claims the lives of countless women. It's a terrible form of violence, but it wasn't included in the index, otherwise Egypt would have ranked much lower.
- United Arab Emirates is 38, but this does not count the jockey slave trade of little boys for the camel races that are a favorite sport in this area. It is well known that these children are often treated worse than the camels, subject to whippings and other violence, as well as given little to eat so they won't weigh much. If this violence, as well as the violence of "honor killings" of girls and women in the Middle East were included, such nations would rank much lower
- China ranked 60, but female infanticide is still a major problem, as shown by the imbalanced ratio of males to females there.
- Chile ranked 16, but as in many Latin American nations (and nations worldwide), the incidence of wife battering is extremely high. For example, although this violence is still rarely prosecuted or officially reported, 26 percent of Chilean women suffered at least one episode of violence by a partner, according to a 2000 UNICEF study.
The authors of the Global Peace Index expressed hope that it will lead to a new approach to the study of peace. They also said they plan to expand their criteria for future indexes. This expansion must start with major changes in the 10 "measures of societal safety and security."
The current index rightly seeks to measure the "level of disrespect for human rights." But according to the report's methodology, this level was based on the "Political Terror Scale" – a scale that ignores the fact that the most ubiquitous human rights violations worldwide are, as a UNICEF report noted 10 years ago, violations of the rights of women and children.
That the index fails to include this violence is particularly shocking in light of the longstanding availability of international statistics such as:
- Twenty percent of women and 5 to 10 percent of men have suffered sexual abuse as children.
- Between 100 million and 132 million girls and women have been subjected to genital mutilation worldwide. Each year, an estimated 2 million join their ranks.
- Female infanticide, selective female malnutrition, and medical neglect of girls are far too common. In India's Punjab State, girls between the ages of 2 and 4 die at nearly twice the rate of boys.
Similarly, while the index rightly includes "level of violent crime," it fails to take into account that much of the violence in families is still not considered a crime in many nations – and hence not reported, much less prosecuted, as such.
Intimate and international violence are inextricably interconnected. But we can only see this once we include in studies of violence the majority: women and children.
It's unrealistic to expect "cultures of peace" so long as children grow up in families in which the use of violence to impose one's will on others is considered normal, even moral.
The good news is that not every one growing up in such families perpetuates violence. The bad news is that many people do – be it in intimate or international relations.
Intimate and international violence are inextricably interconnected. But we can only see this once we include in studies of violence the majority: women and children. If we are serious about peace – not just about measuring it but about creating more of it – we have to look at the whole picture. We must pay particular attention to those formative experiences when young people first learn either to respect human rights or to accept human rights violations as just the way things are.
Only as we leave behind traditions of domination and violence in the human family will we have solid foundations on which to build global peace.
Breaking the Devastating Link Between International Terrorism and Intimate Violence
Dr. Eisler addresses the connection between international violence and family violence and what we can all do to break cycles of violence in our lives and communities.
Nurture, Nature, and Caring: We Are Not Prisoners of Our Genes
The backlash against progress in a partnership direction is taking many forms. One is the new spate of books and theories such as those of some so-called evolutionary psychologists that violence and cruelty, domination and oppression, are wired in our genes.
The article that follows from Brain and Mind Journal offers a scientifically grounded alternative to these claims. That same issue, edited by Dr. Daniel S. Levine, a leading scholar in the field of neural network mapping, also contains other important articles, including an article by CPS co-founder David Loye.
The School for Violence — A conversation with Riane Eisler
Interview with Riane Eisler by Helen Knode in LA Weekly, 23.45, September 28-October 4, 2001.
Riane Eisler is a macro-historian; systems and cultural-transformation theorist; international activist for peace, human rights and the environment; and president of the Center for Partnership Studies. In The Chalice and the Blade (1987), an international best-seller, she reviewed Western history in a radical new way, and introduced the models of domination and partnership as two underlying possibilities for human organization. In Sacred Pleasure (1995), she applied these models to the erotic; in Tomorrow’s Children (2000), she applied them to child development and education. Her next book, The Power of Partnership, due in spring 2002, is a wildly original self-help book. We can’t help ourselves, she says, outside the complex web of our relationships — from family, to nation, to the Earth. She devotes a chapter to international relations, and the subject of terrorism comes up again and again. Eisler discusses terrorism and transformation with novelist and former L.A. Weekly staff writer Helen Knode.
Human Rights: Toward an Integrated Theory for Action
by Riane Eisler in Human Rights Quarterly 9.3 (1987), pp. 287-308.
Modern history has been shaped by the struggle for human rights. Though this struggle has been successful in important respects, human rights are still, at best, tenuous. Rather than steadily advancing, we are constantly forced to refight the same battles. Instead of becoming firmly rooted, even gains we have already made are chronically in jeopardy.
Adapted from Eisler's book The Power of Partnership: Seven Relationships That Will Change Your Life (2002).
Spirituality has become the word of the hour. But what is spirituality? What does being spiritual mean? For me, as for many others, spirituality means feeling at one with that which we call the divine. But when I think of the divine I do not think of it as separate from our lives, as otherworldly, as "out there" rather than here. I think of our own most evolved qualities: our profound human capacity for empathy, for love, our striving for justice, our hunger for beauty, our yearning to create. I think being spiritual means being ethical and, in the true sense of the word, moral.
When I think of spirituality I think of love, not in some abstract way but in action. I did not always understand spirituality this way. But now when I think of spirituality I think of love, not in some abstract way but in action. I think of what I have called spiritual courage: trusting our impulse to reach out to others, to help others, to challenge injustice - not out of hate, but out of love.
My mother had this spiritual courage, and it saved our lives. When a party of Austrian Nazis, among them a man my parents had been kind to, came to drag my father away on Crystal Night, my mother had the courage to stand up to them. She could have been killed for angrily demanding that my father be released. I do not know if it was that my mother (who was Jewish) looked Aryan with her blue eyes and blond hair, or whether it was the character of the particular Gestapo officer who headed the pack, or a combination of factors. But by some miracle my father was released and we escaped from the Nazis with our lives.
There were others who had this kind of courage, people who helped Jews hide, even though it meant risking their lives and the lives of their families. Often when they were asked afterwards why they did it, they simply answered that they had to. That to me is true spirituality, listening to that inner voice we all have to be caring rather than cruel.
I believe all of us are born with that voice, that it is part of the essence of what makes us human. Babies, newborns, cry when they hear another baby's cry. They are born with empathy, with the capacity to feel with another.
But unfortunately, much in our culture stifles, and all too often silences, that empathic and caring inner voice. So when I speak of being spiritual, I do not think of it as just a personal matter. It is a cultural and social matter. And all too often it is a matter of standing up against what is presented to us as traditional wisdom.
My Spiritual Journey
I grew up taking God for granted. After my parents and I fled to Cuba, every night, before going to bed, I repeated after my father the Hebrew evening prayer, the Shema. I did not understand the words, and I do not think my father did. All I knew was that this was a special ritual of bonding between us, this reaching out to a greater spiritual power in which we placed our trust.
After that, I always said my own prayer. Always, as children will, I made very sure that I did not to forget anyone, that I did not omit a single name of those who had been left behind in Europe: my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Then World War II ended and I saw the newsreels of the concentration camps: the carelessly thrown piles of skeletal dead bodies, the skeletal bodies of the survivors and their hollow, staring, haunted eyes. I found out what happened to those I had so faithfully prayed for, what had been done to them, the cruel horror of their lives and deaths.
I still cry when I think of it. There are no words to describe what I felt as I grieved not only for the dead of my family and my people, but for the faith I lost. Was God evil? Was God mad? Powerless? Or simply nonexistent?
It was a long time before I ever thought of spirituality again. I went through the motions, to please my parents, of going to synagogue on the high holidays. I never rejected my Jewish identity. I was, and am, a Jew.
But slowly I also began to open my eyes to all that in the Bible is cruel and inhuman, the laws about stoning women to death, the commands to raze cities and kill every living being in them lest God be angry that some were spared, the double standard for men and women not only in sexual morality but in the treatment of girl children and women as mere male chattel -- "thy neighbor's wife,..ox, ...ass...". And for the first time I woke up to what was really communicated about human relations in stories such as that of Lot, who offered his little daughters to a mob of men to rape to protect two male guests in his house -- and gets rewarded rather than punished when, so we are told, the guests turn out to be vengeful angels sent by God.
At the same time, I recognized and found value in those parts of the Bible that teach empathy and caring. This, and the Jewish tradition of helping those who are less fortunate modeled by my parents, was, and continues to be, extremely important to me. But I did not think of that as spiritual -- I thought of it as simply the way to be.
Only many years later, after decades of research in many fields, including the history of religion, did I begin to again use the word spirituality. Only now it had a very different meaning for me. It was not associated with a particular deity, either God or Goddess. Nor was it associated with sitting on a mountain top meditating, or joining a monastery or convent to withdraw from the pains and pleasures of life. I realized that I used to think that way because so much of what has been written about spirituality is esoteric. But now I began to see that idealizing this way of looking at spirituality actually perpetuates injustice and suffering, just as only praying to an otherworldly deity does not change the conditions that cause injustice and suffering.
Gradually I became aware that my most illuminating spiritual experiences have come when I feel myself at one with nature or with others of our kind, when I look into my little granddaughter's sparkling eyes, when I hear the beloved voice of one of my children, when I touch my husband's hand. I also became aware that I was now, so to speak, spiritually self-educating myself.
Unraveling and Reweaving
Many of us are today troubled by the overmaterialism of our culture. We find much in institutionalized religions that we can no longer accept. Yet we want to infuse our lives, and our work, with deeper meaning. We want to be of service, to feel connected to one another and to our Mother Earth. We want deeper relationships and a sense of greater purpose. This, I believe, is one of the major motivations behind the various strands of what is sometimes called the new spirituality.
While some of these strands promote healthier psyches and encourage action to promote social justice and environmental sustainability, others unfortunately are not so different from much that they reject in the old religious traditions. Like just going to synagogue on Friday or church on Sunday, they tend to be abstracted from daily life. Like many earlier mystical traditions, they promote retreating from what is happening around us, away from the suffering of others. This kind of spirituality may help individuals cope with the chronic injustices and miseries of what I have identified as a dominator model of relations -- the force-backed ranking of man over woman, man over man, race over race, and nation over nation that can only be maintained by inflicting or threatening pain. But it does little to change what is happening here on Earth.
By contrast, the kind of spirituality appropriate for what I have called a partnership model of relations is not only transcendent but also immanent. It is a spirituality that informs our day-to-day lives with caring and empathy. It provides basic standards of human rights and responsibilities. It also provides basic teachings about empathy and nonviolence as alternatives to both a lack of standards and the use of morality to incite hate, scapegoating, and violence.
This is very important today. On the one side, as in earlier times when the dominator model -- with its "holy wars," witch burnings, and other barbarities -- was more firmly in place, we still have those who incite hate-mongering, scapegoating, and violence under the guise of traditional values. On the other, we have those who contend that there are no real standards of conduct, that all standards are merely cultural constructs that vary from time to time and place to place -- a view sometimes called post modernism, deconstructionism, or cultural relativism.
This second view reflects a rebellion against "moral" rules that have frequently been unfair, and all too often inhuman -- rules developed in earlier times that were more oriented to a dominator model of society. It also reflects the fact that there are indeed cultural variations in what is considered moral and right. But we humans need standards. Even arguing that all standards are relative is articulating a kind of standard, negative though it may be.
Distinguishing between the kind of standards -- and spirituality -- appropriate for partnership or dominator relations can help us integrate spirituality into our day-to-day lives. It can help us live more fully, while at the same time helping others to do the same. And it can inspire us to passionately work for a world where our most evolved capacities will be socially and economically supported.
In my life, I have found that spiritual work is not only "inner work," but the spiritual courage to persevere in the face of those who either tell us that only what they consider "traditional" is moral or, alternately, that we must not be too judgmental, that we must not polarize, that even the most horrible things in our world somehow are manifestations of the divine. And I have found that this spiritual courage can be the source of enormous satisfaction, indeed, of joy.
Toward Partnership Spirituality
A partnership spirituality, as I emphasize in my book Sacred Pleasure, entails a very different view of pain and pleasure than the one most of us have been taught -- one that sacralizes pleasure rather than pain. But here it is important to note, as I emphasize in Sacred Pleasure, that this is not pleasure in a purely hedonistic or self-centered form, or as the frantic "fun" or escape from pain that is characteristic of much that is called pleasure in dominator societies. Rather it is a pleasure connected with awe at the miracle of of life and of nature, the ecstatic pleasure of altered states of consciousness, and the deep pleasure of caring connections, of caretaking, of creativity, of love.
This leads to still another important core element of partnership spirituality: it does not place man and spirituality over woman and nature. We can find remnants of an earlier, more partnership-oriented spirituality in archeological finds and myths from very ancient times when people do not seem to have imaged the powers that govern the universe -- as we have been taught -- as an armed male deity: Jehovah with his thunderbolt, Zeus with his sword (actually Zeus has both a thunderbolt and a sword, to emphasize the point that the highest power is the power to dominate and destroy.) These earlier people appear to have imaged the powers that govern the universe more in terms of the power to give and nurture life, as a Great Mother from whose womb all of life ensues and to whose womb all of life returns at death, like the cycles of vegetation, once again to be reborn. But -- and I want to emphasize this important point -- it is clear from Neolithic imagery that the male principle was also highly valued. Indeed, one of the central stories in this earlier, more nature-based religion that saw all of nature as interconnected and as imbued with what we call the divine, was the sacred marriage of the Goddess with her divine lover.
This is obviously a nature-based spirituality. It is a spirituality in which sex, the human body, matters we have been taught to associate with the obscene, are part of the sacred. It is also a view of the sacred in which images of sex, of the human body, of man's body, of woman's body, and of how two bodies should relate, are primarily life-affirming, pleasure-affirming images.
Today a growing number of theologians such as Carter Heyward, Carol Christ, Elizabeth Dodson Gray, Matthew Fox, and Judith Plaskow, are writing about this "new" (but actually very old) spirituality as an embodied spirituality. As Susan G. Carter writes, the term embodied spirituality has yet to be defined in our dictionaries, where body (or embodiment) and spirit (or spirituality) are as separate as they still are in much of our society. But if we are to integrate spirituality into our lives, as Carter also notes, using this term can concretize thoughts and ideas, and thus help bring about changes in both our thinking and our society.
In one way it is easy to imagine an embodied spirituality. After all, many of our images of deity are embodied. Except that, in Western tradition they have been embodied only in male form. One of the key elements of the "new spirituality" is the embodiment of the divine in both female and male form.
As the theologian Sallie McFague writes, the image of God as Mother expands our conception of God. The Father God has been pictured more as redeemer from sins than as giver of life, and his love has been understood as "disinterested," involving no need, no desire, no feeling, for the objects of his love. By contrast, God as Mother is associated also with feeling and nurturing, adding a dimension of caring, as well as with joy for her creation, and with the desire to see it come to fulfillment, with wanting us to flourish. "A theology that sees God as the parent who feeds the young and, by extension, the weak and vulnerable, understands God as caring about the most basic needs of life in its struggle to continue," McFague writes.
Although ancient female representations of divinity symbolized many different stages of life, from young maiden to ancient crone, many of the oldest female representations emphasize the life-giving and nurturing aspects of woman's body -- that is, the aspect we today would call the Mother Goddess. Even in historic times we find records telling of female deities giving their people not only the gift of life but the capacity to feed themselves through the invention of agriculture -- for example, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Goddess Isis is repeatedly referred to as the inventor of agriculture and in Sumerian cuneiform tablets the Goddess Ninlil is revered for teaching her people to farm. Love is also associated with female deities -- for example, the Greek Goddess Aphrodite still in historic times represented sexual love, and the Goddess Demeter powerfully symbolized maternal love.
The Catholic Virgin Mary is, to this day, the symbol of maternal love, even though she is now presented as the only mortal in a family in which only the father and the son are divine Like the Chinese Goddess Kuan Yin, today still the most popular of Chinese deities, Mary is revered primarily as the symbol of love and compassion associated with the ideal of motherhood. The Hebrew "Hochma" and the Greek "Sophia" mean not only wisdom but caring wisdom, so-called feminine wisdom -- which of course can reside in both women and men and can flourish in both if it is socially supported and rewarded, which it is not in dominator societies.
It is not coincidental that during our time of strong partnership resurgence the image of the divine in female form should again come to the fore. Nor is it coincidental that this conception of the divine or spiritual as female again adds to love an erotic or bodily element -- that is, that in this "new" spirituality love is no longer abstract. And it is not judgmental love, but a love that is accepting and inclusive of all.
By sacralizing the erotic -- that is, bodily pleasure, rather than pain to the body -- this new, but actually very old, spirituality also stands in stark contrast to the emphasis in dominator spirituality on the infliction and/or suffering of pain.
Partnership Morality and Spirituality
In my thought, work, and life, I do not distinguish between spirituality and morality. I should emphasize, however, that by morality I do not mean what I have come to think of as the false morality of so-called fundamentalist religious teachings. I believe that at at the core of all the major religious traditions -- be they Hindu, Muslim, Hebrew, Christian, or Confucian -- are the partnership values of sensitivity, empathy, caring, and nonviolence. But overlaying this partnership core is what we may call the dominator encrustment: teachings appropriate for the kinds of societies that already prevailed during the time when what are today considered our holy books or scriptures were committed to writing.
We are still generally taught religious morality as a collection of many different kinds of rules, such as the biblical commandments that "thou shalt not steal." (Exodus 21: 15). Sometimes these rules have been presented to us as the infallible word of God, or the equally infallible teachings of a religious prophet or guru, to be unquestioningly obeyed. Sometimes there are in these rules strong partnership elements: for example, the teachings of Isaiah in the Old Testament and of Jesus in the New Testament preaching stereo typically "feminine" values such as compassion, empathy, and nonviolence. However, we also need to recognize the dominator elements in religious teachings: elements that have served to justify and maintain domination and oppression -- for example, the biblical justification of holy wars and the control of men over women.
A morality appropriate for partnership relations can have standards such as the moral imperative of moving through our lives with awareness, with the sensitivity to ourselves and to others that is the prerequisite for empathy and caring. These standards can help us become more aware of our interconnection with others of our kind and with our Mother Earth, fostering that feeling of oneness that is at the core of partnership spirituality.
When we are sensitive, we can feel empathy. When we are insensitive, we can not. Sensitivity is therefore a prerequisite for the basic partnership moral standard of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Obviously this standard cannot be the guide for relations in societies that orient primarily to the dominator model. So dominator morality has to justify the suppression of moral sensitivity -- not only toward "out-groups" but also toward those below one in the rankings of domination backed up by fear and force that characterize this kind of social structure.
The maintenance of any kind of social cohesion, however, requires some attention to nonviolent and mutually responsible relations. Hence this dominator kind of morality has a myriad of rules and regulations, some governing relations between those who dominate, others governing relations between those who dominate and those who are dominated -- and these rules are very different.
This difference is why the kind of morality we have inherited from more rigid dominator times is a mass of contradictory rules and regulations. For example, one of the ten commandments Moses is said to have brought down from Mount Sinai in the Old Testament of the Bible is "thou shalt not kill." But the Bible is full of instances where this commandment is violated -- from rules prescribing that a young bride be stoned to death by the men of her city if she is found not to be a virgin (Dueteronomy 22:13-21) to numerous "divinely inspired" commands to kill men, women, and children.
Similarly, in the New Testament we often read of God commanding peace and love. But in Chapters 12 to 19 of the book of Revelations we read how the angels are commanded to pour out "the wrath of God upon the earth" and terrible horrors were released upon all -- except the "hundred and forty and four thousand," which, according to Chapter 14:3, "were redeemed from the earth."
I want to emphasize that this problem is by no means unique to Judaeo-Christian scriptures As in Judaeo-Christian tradition, teachings in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures about honesty and nonviolence are partnership teachings. But there are in all these traditions also many dominator teachings. For instance, in the Hindu Mahabarata, violence and cruelty are attributed to divine commands, and even presented as divine attributes. According to the Koran, if a wife is disobedient, her husband should beat her and banish her from his bed. And in one of the most celebrated Hindu stories, the message that women's lives are worth less than men's, and even that girls and women can be killed with impunity, is reinforced. We are told that the great god Vishnu was almost killed by his own father, who, as in the Greek Oedipus story feared his son would kill and depose him -- but that fortunately his life was saved when a girl baby was put in his place to be killed instead.
Stories provide for us models for our own behavior. When these are religious stories, they carry enormous moral authority. This is why we need to cultivate, in ourselves and others, the spiritual courage to challenge these kinds of stories, be it in our own religious traditions or in those of others. It is also why we need to develop a moral, ethical, and spiritual education that helps us explore the difference between what social psychologist David Loye calls partnership moral sensitivity and dominator moral insensitivity.
In the Bible, this difference is reflected by what Michael Lerner calls two voices of God: the voice of the God of love and the voice projecting onto God the accumulated cruelty, violence, and pain inherent in a dominator model of relations. Once we become more aware of this difference, we can more effectively counter those who, be it in the name of tradition or even liberation, have used and unwittingly continue to use the language of the second voice to perpetuate cruelty, violence, and pain, as well as those who would indiscriminately discard all religious teachings or accept anything and everything as the manifestation of a divine will.
In sum, we urgently need to identify, and support, the partnership core of our world's religious traditions, at the same time that we identify, and reject, their dominator overlays. Then we can more effectively work for a future guided by spirituality in the sense of love, caring, and oneness with all that we and our world can be.
La familia norteamericana: sentando las bases para una democracia y libertad reales
Para los que nos consideramos progresistas, el día de la independencia ofrece la oportunidad de renovar nuestro
compromiso con la construcción de una sociedad más equitativa, compasiva, pacífica, verdaderamente democrática
y libre. Actualmente, estos objetivos se encuentran seriamente amenazados, tanto en los Estados Unidos como en
el resto del mundo. Nos encontramos ante una encrucijada histórica donde se nos presenta el desafío de ir un paso
más allá. Es el momento de evaluar cuáles son los elementos que han estado ausentes y de formular estrategias de
El movimiento progresista está haciendo un esfuerzo por reformular sus valores en términos que puedan ser
aceptados por todos los norteamericanos. Recientemente los progresistas han comenzado a aplicar el marco de la
paternidad en todas las áreas de la política – con excepción de la propia familia.
Repaso de las Reglas Economicas: Delegar a Mujeres y Cambiar el Mundo
Dra. RIANE EISLER
Sesión plenaria del Foro Mundial de las Mujeres
29 de julio de 2004
Buenos días. Voy a hablar en inglés porque me faltan las palabras en español
para una conferencia, pero primero quiero decirles en este bello idioma que es
maravilloso estar aquí con ustedes en esta bella ciudad.
Es un enorme honor y un gran placer estar hoy aquí con todos ustedes, con
tantas mujeres y hombres dedicadas a crear un futuro mejor dando poder a las
mujeres de todo el mundo —una causa en la que llevo fervientemente
comprometida desde hace ya tres décadas, como experta, escritora y activista
Economics as if Caring Matters
"In this superb piece, Riane Eisler tries to untangle the limitations of both capitalism and socialism. There is no place for a caring economy in these models -- no value given to caring for our trees or, as emphasized in this piece, our children. New models are needed, and the author presents the beginning of one. If economics moves in any direction, it should be this one." Jeff Madrick, Challenge Editor. March-April 2012
Protecting the Majority of Humanity: Toward an Integrated Approach to Crimes against Present and Future Generations
In the wake of the World Health Organization's report showing that violence against women and girls is a global health problem of epidemic proportions, the publication of Riane Eisler's chapter Protecting the Majority of Humanity: Toward an Integrated Approach to Crimes against Present and Future Generations in the new Cambridge University book Sustainable Development, International Criminal Justice, and Treaty Implementation edited by Sebastien Jodoin and Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger is both timely and practical. Continuing her work of placing the rights, problems, and aspirations of the majority of humanity -- women and children -- on the international agenda as integral to a sustainable and just future for all, Eisler proposes that the international legal foundations of the Rome Statute and R2P (Right to Protect) can, and should, be used to end traditions of violence that not only take the lives of millions of women and children but also have very adverse impacts on economic and social health.
Unpaid and Undervalued Care Work Keeps Women on the Brink
The 2014 Shriver Report, A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, includes an important essay by Riane Eisler and Kimberly Otis, "Unpaid and Undervalued Care Work Keeps Women on the Brink". Eisler and Otis show that a major underlying reason for the disproportionate poverty of women documented in the report is the failure to give value and support to the essential “women’s work” of caring for people, starting in childhood.
Human Possibilities: An Integrated Systems Approach
Published in World Futures: The Journal of New Paradigm Research.
A basic principle of systems theory is that if we do not look at the whole of
a system, we cannot see the connections between its various components. This
article describes the author’s personal and research journey developing a new
method of inquiry and a new theory of cultural evolution that takes into account
the whole of our history (including prehistory), the whole of our species (both
its male and female halves), and the whole of social relations (from politics and
economics to family and other intimate relations). It reveals connections and
patterns not visible using smaller data bases and casts a new, more hopeful, light
on our past, present, and the possibilities for our future.
A Full Spectrum Job-Creation Proposal: The Roadmap to a New Caring Economy
This proposal is directed to President Obama, his economic advisory team, and
Congress. It proposes a full-spectrum job creation plan for the post-industrial era that
includes critical investment in high quality human capital through the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Plan: an investment in our human infrastructure. It provides
data supporting some recommendations in the current plan, urges the plans expansion
in both the market and non-market economies, and proposes a cabinet level post or
advisory council focusing on human capacity development. It introduces the concept of
a new economic agenda that recognizes three important economic sectors: the
household economy, the natural economy and the volunteer community economy.
The American Family: Building a Foundation for Real Democracy and Freedom
by Riane Eisler and Frances Kissling, Center for American Progress
For progressives, Independence Day offers an opportunity to recommit ourselves to creating a more equitable, caring, peaceful, truly democratic, and free society. Today, these goals are seriously threatened, both in the United States and worldwide. We are at a historic juncture where we are challenged to go deeper. It is a time to assess what has been missing and formulate long-range strategies.
Reclaiming Our Humanity: Partnership Education
Children are being given a false picture of what it means to be human. We tell them to be good and kind, nonviolent and giving. But on all sides they see and hear stories that portray us as bad, cruel, violent, and selfish. In the mass media, the focus of both action entertainment and news is on hurting and killing. Situation comedies make insensitivity, rudeness, and cruelty seem funny. Cartoons present violence as exciting, funny, and without real consequences.
All this holds up a distorted mirror of themselves to children. And rather than correcting this false image of what it means to be human, some aspects of our education reinforce it.
History curricula still emphasize battles and wars. Classics such as Homer's Iliad and Shakespeare's kings trilogy romanticize "heroic violence." Scientific stories tell children that we are the puppets of "selfish genes" ruthlessly competing on the evolutionary stage.
If we are inherently violent, bad, and selfish, we have to be strictly controlled. This is why stories that claim this is "human nature" are central to an education for what I call a dominator system of relations. They are, however, inappropriate if young people are to learn to live in democratic, peaceful, equitable, and Earth-honoring ways: the partnership ways urgently needed if today's and tomorrow's children are to have a better future- perhaps even a future at all.
Freeing Our Psyches
The tragedy, and irony, is that dominator socialization - and with this, the unconscious valuing of the kinds of undemocratic, abusive, and even violent relations that were considered normal and even moral in earlier more authoritarian times - has been unwittingly passed on from generation to generation. Psychologists have found that children who are dependent on abusive adults tend to replicate these behaviors with their children, having been taught to associate love with coercion and abuse. Often they learn to use psychological defense mechanisms of denial and to deflect repressed pain and anger onto those perceived as weak.
Teachers can help students experience partnership relations as a viable alternative. This is what partnership process and partnership structure, as two key elements of Partnership Education, are all about. But, as Tomorrow's Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education in the 21st Century shows, partnership process and structure are not enough without partnership content: narratives that help young people better understand human possibilities. For example, narratives still taught in many schools and universities tell us that Darwin's scientific theories show that "natural selection," "random variation," and later ideas such as "kinship selection" and "parental investment" are the only principles in evolution. As David Loye shows in Darwin's Lost Theory of Love, actually Darwin did not share this view, emphasizing that, particularly as we move to human evolution, other dynamics, including the evolution of what he called the "moral sense" come into play. Or, as Frans deWaal writes in Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals, the desire for a modus vivendi fair to everyone may be regarded as an evolutionary outgrowth of the need to get along and cooperate.
Partnership Education offers scientific narratives that focus not only on competition but also, following the new evolutionary scholarship, on cooperation. For example, young people learn how, by the grace of evolution, biochemicals called neuropeptides reward our species with sensations of pleasure, not only when we are cared for, but also when we care for others.
Awareness of the interconnected web of life that is our environment, which has largely been ignored in the traditional curriculum, leads to valuing of activities and policies that promote environmental sustainability: the new partnership ethic for human and ecological relations needed in our time.
Partnership Education is gender balanced, multicultural, and environmentally sensitive, not just through add-ons but throughout the entire curriculum. It offers empirical evidence that our human strivings for love, beauty, and justice are just as rooted in evolution as our capacity for violence and aggression. It does not leave young people with the sense that life is devoid of meaning or that humans are inherently violent and selfish - in which case, why bother trying to change anything!
The transformation of education is foundational to the movement toward a partnership way of living and working. In partnership-oriented schools, teachers inspire and facilitate learning and creativity, modeling caring and empathic behaviors. In corporations moving away from the top-down dominator model, managers are not "cops" or controllers who give orders that must be obeyed. They inspire productivity and empathically facilitate creative team work. Authoritarian families, which model inequality and replicate the unempathic childrearing required to mold a dominator psyche, are increasingly being replaced by democratic families that model empathy, gender-fairness, and respect for human rights, instilling democratic values on an experiential day-to-day level.
To accelerate this movement toward a partnership future, we need to nurture the wonderful range of human capacities still largely ignored in schools. - particularly our human capacities for caring and creativity. We can all join in this process by using Partnership Education in our own homes and communities in ways that highlight our enormous human potential to learn, to grow, to create, and to relate to one another in mutually supporting and caring ways.
Revisioning the Economic Rules: Empowering Women and Changing the World
It is a pleasure and an honor being here with you today – with so many women and men dedicated to creating a better future by empowering women worldwide – a cause I have been passionately committed to for over three decades, as a scholar, author, and activist.
We are all aware that women must become economically empowered. We need equal access to education, well-paying jobs, credit; we need to change laws and customs that discriminate against us simply because we were born female. But – and this is what I want to focus on in the short time we have together today – we need more than that. If we are to change the shameful fact that worldwide the mass of the poor and the poorest of the poor are women and their children, we not only need a bigger share of the present economic pie. To use a women’s metaphor, we have to bake a new economic pie.
So I want to invite you to join me in something we hear a great deal about: in thinking outside the box of conventional economic systems, whether capitalist or socialist, and begin to envision and help create a new economic system – economic measurements, models, and rules that no longer are conceived without taking into account the female half of humanity; indeed, without taking into account the humanity of either men or women; an economic system that takes into full account the real value of the most basic and important human work: the work of caregiving – of caring for children, the sick, the elderly – work without which there would be no workforce, work without which none of us would be alive – work that has traditionally been relegated to women, and is still considered inappropriate for so-called “real men,” work that must be taken into full account if we are to stop being on the periphery, if we are to become truly economically empowered.
And I am going to propose to you that this is doable: economic systems are human creations, the move into the postindustrial economy offers a window of opportunity to re-examine and re-define what is and what is not productive work; and we women must take leadership in this not only for ourselves as women, but for the sake of us all – women, men, and children.
I am going to start by telling you a little about myself and my work, because as we used to say in the 1960s when I first became involved in the women’s movement, the personal is political. Change begins with changes in personal consciousness, which then become the basis for group action. I can attest to this from my own life. For much of my early life, and even after I was trained in both social science and law, I had no consciousness of something many of us are today acutely aware of: that we have all been brought up to devalue women and the stereotypically feminine. It was not until the late 1960s when, along with thousands of other women in the United States, I awoke as if from a long drugged sleep, that I became aware that problems that I had thought were just my personal problems were actually social problems – problems stemming from the systematic subordination and devaluation of women.
When I became conscious of this, I jumped into the women’s movement. I started the first center in the U.S. on women and the law, testified at hearings to change property laws, drafted new laws, worked to change want ads that were then segregated by sex, with all the good jobs under help wanted men and all the dead-end helper jobs under women. I taught the first classes at UCLA in what was later to become Women’s Studies: classes on the legal and social status of women. And of course I worked for the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. constitution, wrote a mass market book on it – and then was appalled when it was defeated, this simple amendment that just said that equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the federal or state governments on the basis of sex.
Now, that defeat, which mobilized for the first time the rightist-fundamentalist alliance that is so powerful today in the United States – a regressive alliance that came together over an issue that most progressives to this day still categorize as “just a women’s issue” – marked the beginning of a major regression. It marked a retreat from progressive political and social policies and the beginning of a strong backlash against women’s rights – a backlash that continues to this day, with many of the gains we made during the 1970s reversed or in danger of being reversed, for example reproductive freedom, without which we cannot realistically speak of freedom for women.
So it became evident to me that to achieve real and lasting progress, we have to go deeper than changing laws – laws are important, but they can be repealed with the stroke of a pen. We have to change the culture. We have to change the larger system of beliefs and the key social institutions – from the family, education, and religion to politics and economics. So I returned to my original training as a social scientist, particularly as a systems scientist, and embarked on the multidisciplinary, cross-cultural, historical research for which I am known today – research reported in books such as The Chalice and The Blade  (which is I am happy to say now in 20 languages, including Spanish, under the title El Caliz y la Espana  ), research that shows that empowering women – personally, socially, and economically – is not only essential for women, but for us all – for women, men, and children, for creating a more equitable, prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable way of life. It shows that how a society structures the roles and relations of the female and male halves of humanity is not, as we are often told “just a women’s issue” – that is, a secondary issue to get to after the so-called “more important” issues have been addressed; it directly affects every social institution – it affects the family (whether it is democratic or authoritarian), education, religion; it affects politics and economics – and it directly affects the governing system of guiding values.
Empowering Women and Building A More Just and Caring World
Specifically, cultures where women have higher status and more political and economic power are also cultures where social and economic policies give more support to traits and activities such as caregiving, nonviolence, empathy – traits stereotypically considered feminine. And I want to emphasize that when I say stereotypically, I mean just that. This is not something inherent in women or men. Some men are caring and nonviolent. Some women are cruel and violent. We are talking about gender stereotypes we inherited from earlier times when society was based on more rigid rankings of domination – beginning with the ranking of the male half of humanity over the female half – a domination system that has caused, and continues to cause, enormous suffering.
Making leaders and the public at large aware of this fact – that what is good for women is good for the world – is one of the most important and useful strategies for moving forward for us – for moving so-called women’s issues to where they belong: from the back to the front of the social and political agenda.
And we have empirical evidence that this is so. A statistical study using data from 89 nations my colleagues and I did for the Center for Partnership Studies, the organization I direct, compared measures of the status of women with quality of life measures, such as infant mortality, human rights ratings, and percentage of the population with access to health care. We found that the status of women can actually be a better predictor of quality of life than Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the conventional measure of a nation’s economic development. For example, Kuwait and France, had identical GDPs, but infant mortality, one of the most basic measures of quality of life, was twice as high in Kuwait, even though GDP was the same. Similarly, the GDP of Finland and Singapore were almost identical. But maternal mortality rate in Singapore, in which the status of women was much lower than in Finland, was more than double that of Finland, a society where, as in other Nordic nations, women have made strong gains.
Raising the Status of Women – and Changing the World
Nordic nations such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway are particularly interesting in connection with what happens as women make strong gains. In a very short time during the 20th century these nations changed from poor, famine-ridden countries to prosperous, creative economies. Why? Because their policies give value and fiscal support to the stereotypically feminine work of caregiving. Consider that measures such as universal healthcare, childcare allowances, elder care, and paid parental leave helped produce the higher quality human capital that transformed them into highly prosperous nations. These nations also always rank on the top of the U.N Human Development Reports. Even beyond that, Finland was second only to the much wealthier United States in the 2003 World Competitiveness ratings.0 And of course women in the Nordic nations occupy a far higher percentage of political leadership positions than anywhere else in the world: they are between 30 and 40 percent of the legislatures.
And as I said, as the status of women rises, the value system changes. These nations also pioneered the first peace studies courses, they pioneered laws against physical punishment of children in families, in other words, nonviolence, empathy; they pioneered a strong men’s movement to disentangle male identity from violence, and they also pioneered what we today call industrial democracy; team work in factories rather than turning human beings into mere cogs in the industrial machine.
None of this is random or coincidental. It is part of a cultural configuration characteristic of what I call the partnership rather than domination model: a configuration in which the higher status of women is central. Because what happens is that as the status of women rises, so also does the status of traits and activities stereotypically associated with the feminine: soft rather than hard values, empathy, caring, nonviolence – and men then find it more possible to embrace these values without feeling threatened in their status.
What We Can Do
So what can we do to use this information?
First, we need to raise consciousness of leaders and the public at large that the traditional male-superior, female-inferior model of relations is an obstacle to a more generally prosperous, equitable, and peaceful world. It is a mental map children learn early on for equating difference, beginning with the basic difference between woman and man, with inferiority and superiority, with dominating or being dominated– a mental map that can then be applied on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or any other difference.
Ironically, this is something that those trying to push us back recognize. Be it Hitler in Germany, Khomeini in Iran, the Taliban, or the Rightist-fundamentalist alliance in the United States, recognize, these people give top priority to “getting women back into their traditional place – which is of course a code word for a subordinate place. We must persuade more progressive leaders to also recognize this. And the study I just told you about, Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life, is a good tool for this.
And of course what this study shows is what we are here looking at: that economics cannot be understood, or effectively changed, without attention to other core cultural components – and that a central cultural component is this construction of the roles and relations of the female and male halves of humanity.
Now this is urgent, because as long as women are devalued, so also are those traits and activities stereotypically associated with women – caregiving, nonviolence, empathy – the very traits and activities we urgently need for a better future, indeed, in our age of nuclear and biological weapons, if we are to have a future at all.
Second, we need a systemic approach. For example, if we are serious about empowering women, we must change entrenched traditions of violence against women and children worldwide. This too is an issue I am deeply committed to through the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence coordinated by the Center for Partnership Studies – an alliance that brings a strong, and until now shamefully missing, moral voice to this pivotal issue – an issue that is foundational to ending war and terrorism, as it is by witnessing or suffering intimate violence that children are first trained for using force as a way to impose their will when they grow up.
Third, we also need to think systemically about economics. And as I said, this means thinking outside the box of the old economic models, whether capitalist or socialist, and develop new economic rules that give visibility and value to the stereotypically feminine work of caregiving.
We are appalled that the first thing that gets cut is funding for health, education, welfare – in other words, funding to care for people. The Structural Adjustment Policies of the International Monetary Fund even demanded this, with disastrous human and economic results for debtor nations. But notice that while we are told we don’t have enough money for this, there always is enough money for weapons, wars, and prisons – for controlling, hurting, and killing people, rather than for nurturing, empowering, and yes, caring for people.
This is directly related to the systemic devaluation of women and the work of caregiving. This devaluation has shaped the economic models and rules. And indeed as long as these rules and models are in place, we women will remain on the periphery. Already women are in the U.S. quitting high paying corporate jobs because of the double burden of women, of the difficulty, indeed almost impossibility, of balancing jobs with caregiving responsibilities at home. The media then tell us women should return to their “natural” place in a male-headed family. But returning to a dependent and subordinate place is not the answer. The answer is what we are discussing here: developing rules, models, and measures that give visibility and value to the activities that nurture and support life – whether performed by women or men.
A first step toward this new partnership economics is changing how we measure productivity. Today GDP counts activities that take life and destroy our natural habitat – coal burning and cleaning the environmental damage it causes; selling cigarettes and the medical costs and funeral costs of the health damage they cause. These are on the positive side of GDP. But not only do these measures put negatives on the positive side: they do not include the unpaid caregiving work primarily performed by women in the “informal” economy, be it in their homes, or in their communities as volunteers – even though these services contribute most to everyone’s social well being.
And of course what is not counted is not considered in making economic policy. We have to change this!
Consider that not only are caring activities in the informal economy not counted in GDP but that in the formal economy, in the labor market, professions that involve caring – such as childcare, primary school teaching, professions until now largely composed of women – are paid significantly less than those that do not involve caregiving – such as plumbing and engineering. So in the United States, people think nothing of paying plumbers, the people to whom we entrust our pipes, $50 to $60 per hour, but childcare workers, the people to whom we entrust our children, only $10 or 15 an hour – and that’s already considered a high rate. And we demand that plumbers have some training but not that all childcare workers have training.
Now none of this is logical – it is actually pathological. We must change it.
Economic Inventions that Recognize the Value of Caregiving Work
We can change it. Because just about everything involved in our economic life is a human creation. It’s an invention — from stock exchanges and sweatshops to banks and social security. We already have a few economic inventions that give monetary value to caring and caregiving. Parental leave for both mothers and fathers, specially paid parental leave, flexible work options. But we need many more. Companies that provide paid parental leave can be supported by public policy through matching local, state, and federal grants. Companies that provide employees with childcare and/or parenting classes can be given tax rebates. These are all sound investments in our future.
Indeed, they are investments in a successful postindustrial/information economy – an economy in which high quality human capital is the most important capital. This economy requires people able to learn, relate, work in teams, solve problems flexibly and creatively. And this high quality human capital is not just produced in universities or through job-training. Findings from psychology, and more recently neurobiology, show that the quality of human capital is, to a much greater extent than has been recognized, shaped by the quality of childcare and early childhood education.
So, yes, the shift into the postindustrial era offers us a window of opportunity to revalue what is and is not productive work. Consider, for example, that it is deemed natural to have government-funded training to teach soldiers to kill, and to provide publicly-funded pensions for soldiers. But government-funded training and pensions for those who perform the work of caring for children is still a rarity – even though high-quality caregiving is essential for children’s welfare and development, even though without it there would be no labor force.
So the issue when it comes to what society supports is not one of money; it is one of social and economic priorities– of what is or is not really valued.
We must change these priorities – and we can change them by taking leadership.
There is much more I would like to share with you, but we are short of time and I hope we can continue this conversation in dialogue. Also, I should say you can get more information about all this from the Center for Partnership Studies website, www.partnershipway.org.
I want to close by focusing again on six levers, six interventions, for fundamental systemic change:
1. Demonstrate the social and economic benefits of policies that support caregiving, and their urgent necessity in the postindustrial age.
2. Employ a systemic approach, including a concerted campaign to end violence against women.
3. Envision and create a partnership economics that no longer devalues women and stereotypically feminine traits and activities, such as caregiving, nonviolence, and empathy.
4. Change economic measurements such as GDP to include the work of caregiving stereotypically relegated to women
5. Develop, support, and disseminate partnership economic inventions such as paid parental leave that give visibility and value to caregiving – whether it is performed by men or women.
6. Expand women’s role in policy making and form alliances to work together with one another, as well as with men – locally, nationally, and internationally – to bring women’s issues to where they belong: from the back to the front of the political and economic agenda.
This is a time of enormous opportunity. We women have an unprecedented, historic opportunity to take leadership in forging new economic models, rules, and practices. We must do this for ourselves, so we can have better lives, so we are no longer on the periphery, so we have economic models, rules, and measures that don’t put us at such a disadvantage, that don’t put caring men at such a disadvantage. We certainly must do this to end the shameful fact that women and children are the mass of the poor and hungry worldwide – and this is the only way to really change this. We must do it to build solid foundations for the more sustainable and humane future we so want for all of us – for ourselves, for our male partners and colleagues, and above all for our children and for generations still to come. Indeed, when I come to a conference like this, with so many wonderful women, and men who understand that real partnership between women and men is key to a better world, I know that we can, and we will, succeed.
I thank you.
1. Riane Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 19987.
2. Riane Eisler, El Caliz y la Espada, Santiago de Chile: Editorial Cuatro Vientos, 1990.
3. Riane Eisler, David Loye, and Kari Norgaard, Women, Men, and The Global Quality of Life (Pacific Grove, CA: Center for Partnership Studies, 1995). The nine measures we used to assess the degree of gender equity were: the number of literate females for every 100 literate males; female life expectancy as a percentage of male life expectancy; the number of women for every 100 men in parliaments and other governing bodies; the number of females in secondary education for every 100 males; maternal mortality; contraceptive prevalence; access to abortion; and based on measures used by the Population Crisis Committee (now Population Action International), social equality for women and economic equality for women. The thirteen measures used to assess quality of life, were: overall life expectancy; human rights ratings; access to health care; access to clean water; literacy; infant mortality; number of refugees fleeing the country; the percentage of daily caloric requirements consumed; Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of wealth; the percentage of GNP distributed to the poorest 40 percent of households; the ratio of GDP going to the wealthiest versus the poorest 20 percent of the population; and as measures of environmental sensitivity, the percentage of forest habitat remaining, and compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. When we explored the relation between the gender equity and quality of life variables with descriptive, correlational, factor, and multiple regression analyses, we found a strong systemic correlation between these two measures. These findings were consistent with our hypothesis that increased equity for women is central to a higher quality of life for a country as a whole, and that gender inequity contracts the opportunities and capabilities, not only of women, but of the entire population. The link between gender equity and quality of life was confirmed at a very high level of statistical significance for correlational analysis. 61 correlations at the .001 level with 18 additional correlations at the .05 level were found, for a total of 79 significant correlations in the predicted direction. This link was further confirmed by factor analysis. High factor loadings for gender equity and quality of life variables accounted for 87.8 percent of the variance. Regression analysis, also yielded significant results. An R-square of .84, with statistical significance at the .0001 level, provided support for the hypothesis that gender equity is a strong indicator of the quality of life.
4. Hilkka Pietila, “Nordic Welfare Society –A Strategy to Eradicate Poverty and Build Up Equality: Finland as a Case Study,” Journal Cooperation South, Number two, 2/2001, pages 79-96.
Partnership Education in the 21st Century
Originally published in ENCOUNTER 15(3): 5-12.
At the core of every child is an intact human. Children have an enormous
capacity for love, joy, creativity, and caring. Children have a voracious
curiosity, a hunger for understanding and meaning. Children also have an
acute inborn sense of fairness. Above all, children yearn for love and
validation and, given half a chance, are able to give them bountifully in
return. In today’s world of rapid technological, economic, and social flux,
the development of these capacities is more crucial than ever before.
Women, Men and Management: Redesigning Our Future
All around us, the world-including the workplace- is in flux. There is growing recognition that fundamental changes are needed for economic and perhaps even species and planetary survival.
The crisis of centrally planned Soviet and Eastern bloc economies has dramatically highlighted the ineffectiveness of a top-down economic architecture where workers are seen as cogs in a giant machine. In 'free market' economies like the USA, economic problems have also spurred a search for new ways of structuring the workplace through more lateral (team) work modes, more people-centered (nurturing) leadership styles that support greater creativity and productivity, and attention to issues such as flex-time, childcare, and other benefits that take into account the whole of people's lives (outside as well as inside the workplace).
At the same time, first on the bottom rungs, and then trickling up into middle, and occasionally top, management, women have entered the paid labor force in unprecedented numbers.
Is the simultaneity of these changes merely coincidental? Or is there a relationship between them, which in turn reflects even more fundamental, but still largely unexplored, systems dynamics?
This essay examines these questions-and their implications for the workplace and society at large-from the new perspective of two underlying types of social organization introduced in my book, The Chalice & The Blade (Eisler 1987): the dominator and partnership models. Specifically, it places important contemporary economic trends as well as changes in gender roles and gender-related values in the context of a movement toward fundamental social and ideological change. Moreover, it looks at these issues-particularly the issue of women as managers or leaders-in the even larger context of our cultural and social evolution.
Women, Men, Work, and Power
In terms of the conventional frame of reference, the terms 'woman manager', 'woman leader', or 'woman executive' are in themselves anomalies. In our history books, empresses such as Catherine the Great and, more recently, presidents such as Corazon Aquino, have by and large stepped into positions of leadership as the widows, daughters, or mothers of men. In business, too, management has been a male preserve, with the occasional top executive who is a woman figuratively stepping into the shoes of men. In other words, power has been practically synonymous with maleness. And it has, by and large, been equated with a particular type of power (the power to give orders and to be obeyed) and with certain types of characteristics (such as strength, toughness, and decisiveness) stereotypically considered masculine. In sum, power has generally been depicted as power over people and, even more specifically, as a male's power to control people (be it for ill or good).
That view of power is highly appropriate for a social organization that orders human relations primarily in terms of ranking-man over man, man over woman, nation over nation, and man over nature. And it is instructive to remember that, not so long ago, this kind of rank ordering was said to be divinely ordained, be it the 'divine right' of a king to rule over his 'subjects', or the right of a male 'head of household' to rule over his wife and children in the 'castle of his home.'
Economic relations in this model of society were also believed to naturally follow this pattern. Just as women's and children's labor was by law and custom the property of the male head of household, the labor of slaves (and later, to a large degree, of serfs) was said to be due their owners or lords. Even later, in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, with the shift from a primarily agrarian to a manufacturing economy, the relations of workers and bosses tended to follow this mould. Sweatshops, where women, men, and children worked from dawn to dusk in unsafe and oppressive conditions, were accepted as 'just the way things are.' And the use of force by industrialists against those who sought to organize workers was often condoned, and at times backed up, by government leaders.
Indeed, whole societies were basically held together by fear backed by force, reinforced by ideologies that commanded loyalty, fealty, and obedience to orders from above-from God (as in the admonition that we must be God-fearing), from kings and lords, from male heads of households, and, in more recent times, from employers (bosses), be they business owners or managers. It was thus the role of the manager, whether as foreman or top executive, to increase production through rewards and punishments designed to maintain vertical hierarchies in an economic system where either monopolies or dog-eat-dog competition were the norm, where women were relegated to the lower-pay and lower-status jobs, and where caring and empathy were seen as having little, if any, relevance.
There were, of course, also lateral relations, bonds based primarily on trust and caring, as without these society could not have functioned. But while the value of these informal relations was often extolled, what counted in actual practice was one's position in the more formal vertical structures-familial, social, or economic. And while there were kings, lords, heads of household, and later industrialists and managers who were noted for their caring and empathy, these were by and large the exceptions to the norm.
If we now look at two of the major trends in the workplace today-the movement of women into leadership levels and the movement by many women and men toward more empathic or nurturing management styles-we see that both are fundamental violations of earlier norms. And we also begin to see that these trends are not unconnected; that, on the contrary, when viewed from a systems perspective, they are inextricably intertwined. For what they challenge are basic assumptions, not only about the roles of women and men, but about the nature of work and power.
We are not used to making these kinds of connections, because we have been so conditioned to view anything connected with women or femininity as peripheral, unimportant, and clearly secondary to what transpires in the 'real' or 'men's' world. But a very different perspective emerges once we take a closer look at some of the contemporary changes in the workplace from a gender-holistic perspective-one that gives equal value to both the female and male halves of humanity.
What we are dealing with here is not a question of women against men or men against women. Rather, it is a question of social organization. What have been described until now are ways of looking at women, men, work, and power that by and large conform to what I have termed a dominator model of society-a way of structuring human relations where, beginning with the ranking of one-half of humanity over the other, the primary organizing principle is ranking, of men over women, men over men, nation over nation, man over nature, or employer over employee.
The terms 'masculinity' and 'femininity' as used herein (and as still generally used) are to a large extent constructs appropriate for a dominator rather than a partnership model of society. For this is a system where men are socialized for domination and conquest (for what we today call a 'win/lose' mode of operations) and qualities like empathy, caring and non-violence (increasingly recognized as requisites for 'win/win' approaches) are by and large considered 'effeminate', as in the English term 'sissy' (weak sister), which describes a boy who exhibits such 'soft' or 'feminine' qualities.
Moreover, what we are dealing with is not a matter of simple linear causes and effects. Rather, it is a matter of systems dynamics. In other words, we are dealing with complex interactions among mutually supporting and interwoven systems elements-interactions on which an examination of the hitherto neglected, but socially fundamental, organization of gender relations sheds important new light.
Dominator and Partnership Models
In my work over the past decades, I have been re-examining human society from a perspective that takes into account the whole of our history (including our prehistory) and the whole of humanity (both its female and its male halves). As I used this larger data base, what became increasingly apparent was that underneath the great surface diversity of human society, transcending such differences as time, place, technological development, ethnic origin, and religious orientation, are certain basic patterns or configurations that are characteristic of the two models of social organization that I have been mentioning; one oriented primarily toward domination and the other toward partnership.
For example, societies that are conventionally viewed as very different-Khomeini's Iran, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's U.S.S.R., and the Masai of nineteenth- and early- twentieth century Africa-all have striking similarities. They are characterized by rigid male dominance, a generally hierarchical and authoritarian social structure, and a high degree of institutionalized violence (that is, a fear/ force-based mode of internal as well as external relations). They are also societies where so-called masculine values, such as toughness, strength, conquest, and domination are given high social and economic priority (as in the emphasis on weaponry), and so-called feminine values, such as caring, compassion, empathy, and nonviolence are, along with women, generally relegated to a secondary or subservient sphere that is cut off from the 'real world' of politics and economics. Finally, this is a model where difference (whether based on sex, race, tribal or ethnic origin, religion, or belief system) is equated with inferiority or superiority and where in-group versus out-group thinking and behavior are the norm. This is part of the configuration characteristic of societies that are oriented primarily toward what I have called the dominator model.
By contrast, in the partnership model of society, difference- beginning with the most fundamental difference in our species, that between women and men-is valued (as in the ideal of the more pluralistic society now gaining currency). In this type of social organization, whether the family, the workplace, or society at large, so-called feminine qualities and behaviors are not only held in high esteem but incorporated into the operational guidance system, particularly in more 'soft' or empowering rather than 'strongman' or disempowering leadership styles. And here there is also a generally more equal partnership between women and men, less institutionalized violence, and a more democratic or egalitarian social structure.
Once again, this configuration transcends the conventional differences in time, place, level of technological development, and so forth. For example, while there are technologically primitive tribal societies, such as the BaMbuti, !Kung, and Tiruray, that are oriented toward the partnership model, we also see strong trends in this direction in many modem industrial nations, particularly in the Scandinavian countries. In Finland, Sweden, and Norway, for example, we see that attempts to create a more equitable economic system resulted not, as they did in the U.S.S.R., in a dominator form of communism ruled from the top, but rather in a democratic society with a mix of 'free enterprise' and 'the welfare state.' And here we also see a strong interest in non-violent means of conflict resolution (for example, the creation of the first peace academies) as well as systemic attempts to create a more gender-balanced society-one where women, along with 'feminine values,' are no longer relegated to an inferior status and excluded from the 'real' or 'public' world.
Moreover, there is mounting evidence that this type of social organization is not, as is commonly believed, a modem invention. Rather, thanks to what British archaeologist James Mellaart (1965) calls a 'veritable revolution in archaeology,' data are accumulating indicating that this way of structuring society has very ancient roots. In prehistoric societies, it appears to have flourished for thousands of years in the mainstream of Western cultural evolution before the shift, during a period of chaos and cultural bifurcation, to a world oriented primarily toward a dominator system of 'strongman' rule.
All this takes us back full circle to the subject of women, men, work, and power. The way that these earlier, more partnership-oriented societies conceptualized power was very different from the way that we have been taught to see it. In these societies, the powers that govern the universe were not seen as a male deity whose symbol of authority is a thunderbolt (Jehovah or Wotan) or a weapon (Zeus or Thor). Rather, their conception of power focused on the power to give, sustain, nurture, and illuminate life, symbolized since remote antiquity by the female figure of a Great Goddess, from whose womb all life ensues and to whose womb it returns at death, like the cycles of vegetation, to be reborn again. In other words, here the highest power was seen not as 'power over' (domination, conquest and control) but as 'power to' (life-giving and life-nurturing).
There is also evidence that in this earlier way of structuring society (which goes back to circa 7000 B.C. in the European Neolithic and could still be found in the Minoan civilizations of Crete until circa 1200 B.C.), women were not excluded from positions of leadership. Women were priestesses, and from Minoan society we find images, such as the so-called procession fresco, indicating that the position of high priestess was central to the functioning of society.
Moreover, these seem to have been more generally peaceful societies than we see today. While they were not ideal societies and undoubtedly experienced some violence, they do not seem to have glorified violence as 'heroic' or 'manly' or institutionalized through practices such as rape and warfare, which are absent in their extensive art.
Along with this are indications that here 'masculinity' was not synonymous with 'manly toughness'. For example, in the Minoan fresco called by archaeologists 'The Young Prince', we see a slim young man, unarmed, walking through a garden - a sharp contrast to the later images of armored men killing one another in 'heroic battle'. In short, in Minoan Crete there seems to have been a more partnership - rather than domination-oriented governing ethos - one where, as Nicolas Platon writes, women and what he calls 'the influence of feminine sensitivity' played critical parts.
Another interesting characteristic of Minoan civilization was its extraordinary creativity and inventiveness. Its beautifully alive and naturalistic art has been described by scholars as 'unique in the annals of civilization.' And this creativity seems to have spilled over into its technology and business life. Here we find the first paved roads, viaducts, and even indoor plumbing in Europe. And, as Platon writes in Crete, Minoan civilization had a remarkably high general standard of living, with extensive public works. Not surprisingly, the Minoans were also the great trading people of their time, with trade routes extending as far as Egypt.
I suggest that this information, and the new view that it offers of our prehistory, are of relevance to much that is happening in our time. They confirm something that we are beginning to understand better from many contemporary sources-that a dominator model of social organization is less creative and productive than one oriented more toward partnership, be it through less expenditure for warfare or more teamwork and worker involvement. I also suggest that the contemporary re-emergence of a 'softer' or, in terms of dominator stereotypes, more 'feminine' style of leadership and governing ethos, particularly in the world of business and economics, can be better understood in the larger context of a fundamental social and ideological transformation, the shift toward a partnership way of structuring society.
These prehistoric data also shed important light on the urgency of this shift, at a time when the dominator ethos of conquest and domination threatens all life on our planet. In terms of this larger perspective, we can see that the problem is not, as sometimes argued, advanced technology, but the potentially lethal mix of high technology with a dominator ethos of conquest and domination-' man's conquest of nature'-particularly in a time of mounting environmental crises. And we can also begin to see that in both human and economic terms the dominator model is wasteful and inefficient, with its chronic weapons expenditure drain (which, as armaments become more technologically complex and expensive, threatens even the most affluent nations with bankruptcy), its emphasis on coercion, and its suppression of creativity and the expression of people's need for meaning and connection with others through their work.
Toward a Redesigned Workplace
Viewed from this more holistic perspective, we can see how the construction of the modem workplace was in critical ways patterned to conform to the requirements of a dominator rather than a partnership type of social organization. Not only was it to be generally hierarchical and authoritarian; it was also primarily designed by and for men who were, in turn, programmed to maintain this type of system.
Its physical structures were properly 'masculine' in their inattention to matters stereotypically relegated to women, such as decor or comfort. From the dingy 19th century mills and sweatshops to the angular 20th century office complexes, they were properly devoid of bright colors, soft textures, green plants, flowers, and other 'feminine frills'.
That is not to say that there were no women in these structures. In fact, in the early days of the industrial revolution, women and children were among the first to work in unbelievably unhealthy, unsanitary and unsafe places, as grimly illustrated by the infamous Triangle Shirt Waist Company fire in which 146 lost their lives because the doors were locked so that they could not take breaks. But while women and children were hired because they could be paid lower wages and were considered more docile and pliable than men, they had little if any voice in their workplace's design or decor. Only gradually, as more and more women entered the white-collar professions in the 20th century, did the decor of offices begin to change.
One factor was undoubtedly that, first as secretaries making their bosses' offices more comfortable and later on their own behalf, women helped to change the look of their surroundings. But equally important was that men also began to feel that these changes did not threaten their 'masculinity'. So what gradually emerged were some of the more humane workplaces we are beginning to take for granted - offices where more colorful and comfortable furniture, paintings and posters on the walls, and even plants and flowers are routine.
But it was not only the physical design of the workplace that was supposed to exclude any 'effeminate' or 'soft' qualities. As we saw, it was the workplace culture itself, from its governing ethos to its management styles.
The human costs to both men and women of this imbalanced, fear-based, institutionally insensitive, and all too often abusive and dehumanizing way of organizing and managing business, and to the social and economic structure that it reflected, were enormous. But it was said, and generally believed, to be a necessary requisite for economic productivity.
But now it is precisely this ethos and management style that are being challenged, not only by women but increasingly also by men. And a growing business, organization development and management literature documents that these once hallowed beliefs and institutions are not spurs, but rather impediments, to productivity and creativity.
For example, in When Giants Learn to Dance: Mastering the Challenge of Strategy, Management, and Careers in the 1990s, Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter notes how 'the traditional large, hierarchic corporation is not innovative or responsive enough; it becomes set in its ways, riddled with pecking-order politics, and closed to new ideas and outside influences'. Or as management consultants Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman reported in an earlier book that became a classic in the US business community, The Search for Excellence, what they term 'excellent companies' are abandoning rigid top-down hierarchies in favor of more flexible and decentralized units, emphasizing teamwork and worker participation and decision making rather than chains of vertical command. 'These institutions', Peters and Waterman write, 'create environments in which participants in the business and society as a whole'.
As Clement L. Russo (1984, 1985) writes in his article "Productivity Overview: Recognizing the Human Dimension," what is emerging is a new view of the workplace as a partnership-oriented structure that can 'transform' the "daily humiliations" of work into an activity that gives meaning, direction, and self-fulfillment" and that provides 'the opportunity to cooperate with others in a common enterprise that stimulates respect, creativity, and commitment that will ultimately benefit everyone.'
That this design will indeed 'ultimately benefit everyone' is also being increasingly shown in practice. For example, as early as the 1960s at a Volvo plant in Sweden, workers' teams were organized that met together and decided how they wanted to divide their jobs, when to stop and start the assembly lines, and even what hours to work. The result was both far higher productivity and a much lower number of defects. Similarly, in an article called "Creating a New Company Culture," Brian Dumaine (1990) reports that in DuPont's plant in Towanda, Pennsylvania, where managers call themselves 'facilitators, not bosses,' productivity has increased by a huge 35 percent over the past four years. And what makes this plant different and so exceptionally productive? It is once again 'organized in self-directed work teams, where employees find their own solutions to problems, set their own schedules, and even have a say in hiring.'
This is an important move toward a new corporate culture, one that, to paraphrase DuPont's CEO, Ed Willard, promotes the creation of more effective partnerships to better serve four interrelated constituencies- the customer, the employee, the shareholder, and society at large. It is a culture that recognizes the cultural importance of human beings and human relations. And it requires a fundamental shift in leadership and management styles. As Woolard puts it in his interview with Fortune on the subject of corporate restructuring, "the first thing people watch is the kind of people you promote. Are you promoting team builders who spend time on relationships, or those who are autocratic?" (Dumaine 1990).
In short, what we are told by a growing number of organizational development experts as well as corporate CEOs is that what is urgently needed for both the economy and society is a fundamentally redesigned workplace, one that nurtures human development and promotes cooperative rather than hierarchical human relations. And integral to this redesigned workplace is what we may call a partnership rather than a dominator style of management, emphasizing worker motivation rather than coercion.
Gender Issues and the Restructuring Process
Until now, most books and management training programs that prescribe decentralized structures, participatory teamwork rather than top-down chains of command, nurturing rather than coercive management styles, and 'win-win' rather than 'win-lose' approaches have only implicitly, rather than explicitly, related these shifts to changes in gender stereotypes or gender-linked values-much less to anything that has to do with the socioeconomic status of women.
But these systems connections are increasingly becoming explicit, as women from all over the world examine their situation in the larger context of a dominator model of society. Actually, this examination started a long time ago, with such writers as Christine de Pisan in the 15th century and 18th and 19th century feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Minna Canth. But it is in contemporary works, such as those of Hilkka Pietila, Hazel Henderson, Devaki Jain and Peggy Antrobus, that dominator economics, and, most important, their partnership alternatives, are being explored. This is not to say that some men have not also noted the necessity for changing the status of women and the so-called feminine for any social and economic restructuring. These men include such well known figured as John Stuart Mill, Marx and Engels, and the Utopian socialist Charles Fourier, who over a century ago observed that 'the degree of the emancipation of women in an index to the degree of society's emancipation". But, until now, any discussion of women and 'the feminine' in this larger context has by and large still been relegated to the back shelves. Only in the past few years has this discussion been entering the realm of best-selling books on the future of business and economics, such as John Naisbitt's and Patricia Aburdene's Reinventing the Corporation.
Naisbitt and Aburdene acknowledge that because most new jobs created today in the US economy are being filled by women, women have been a major driving force behind the corporate innovations such as flex-time, day-care and elderly care programs, parental leave and other workplace policies that, as they put it, are forcing 'the humanization of the workplace'. They also point out the importance in terms of social values and economic relations of the contemporary struggle over 'comparable worth' - the question of why male occupations such as truck driving should be paid more than female occupations such as secretarial work, when clearly the skills and responsibilities of secretaries (or for that matter of childcare workers and nurses) are equal, and probably considerably greater, than those of a man who drives a truck.
Reinventing the Corporation is of particular interest in relation to the role of women in changing management styles. For it reports some new studies that indicate that precisely because women's socialization was not designed for them to function in the 'man's world', women today bring to the workplace some of the very skills urgently needed if it is to be fundamentally transformed.
For example, they quote Leonard Greenhalgh (who helped conduct a study of women and men in simulated negotiations sessions) at the Dartmouth School of Business Administration on the 'advantage' that women have in working for win/win solutions. Greenhalgh's study found that women tend to be more flexible, more empathetic and more likely to reach agreement. "when a man visualizes a negotiating situation, he sees it as a one-shot deal to win or lose, like a sport or a game", Greenhalgh states. "A woman sees it as part of a long-term relationship." And since most business situations involve long-term relationships, the 'female approach' is more productive, he concludes. Or, as Naisbitt and Aburdene put it, 'in the information society, as the manager's role shifts to that of a teacher, mentor, and nurturer of human potential, there is even more reason for corporations to take advantage of women's managerial abilities, because these people-oriented traits are the ones women are socialized to possess.
The problem, however, is that if women are forced to operate in dominator-style structures, they are under tremendous external and internal pressure to 'be more like men.' As noted by Alice Sargent and Ronald Stupak (1989) in The Androgynous Manager, women-particularly as middle managers, but sometimes even when they reach the top-will have to 'step into the shoes of men' (as was the case in earlier dominator structures and has been said of Margaret Thatcher, who, perhaps unfairly, has been referred to as "the best man in England").
On the other hand, there is mounting evidence that in situations where women have a strong voice in shaping the system's rewards and incentives, the culture and structure of the workplace are fundamentally altered. In The Female Advantage: Women's Ways of Leadership, Sally Helgesen (1990) describes the innovative organizational structures and strategies of a number of successful women managers. She documents how the workplaces run by these women tend to be more like 'webs of inclusion' than hierarchies of exclusion, to be communities where sharing information is key. And she also points out that this structure has the advantage of permitting a greater flow of information, because there are more points of connection or contact than in a hierarchy, where the information flow is strictly up or down along appropriate channels.
Managers of the Future
Once again, it is important here to emphasize that while women today can make a special contribution to the creation of a more productive, creative, and humane workplace, this in no way means that men do not also have a very important role to play in the process. The military (dominator) model that has been the norm for structuring the workplace has been disempowering to both women and men. And it will require women and men working in full and equal partnership to transform that model.
It is also important to emphasize that today many men (even CEOs of major corporations) are rejecting dominator approaches and moving toward a more 'feminine' or nurturing way of managing and organizing business. But viewed from a systems perspective, these changes in male attitudes and behaviors are not happening in a vacuum.
If men are finding it possible to adopt more 'feminine' values and behaviors, it is in part because the status of women and, with it, men's attitudes toward what is 'feminine' and 'masculine' are changing. An example is the current trend toward men redefining their role of fathering to include some of the nurturing behaviors stereotypically associated with mothering. This trend is not unrelated to the movement toward more 'feminine' or nurturing management styles for both men and women. For as women and the 'feminine' rise in status, men can increasingly respect-and adopt-' feminine' attitudes and behaviors.
Moreover, it is important to emphasize that while some traits defined as 'masculine' in dominator structures (conquest, domination, and the suppression of empathy and caring, along with 'effeminate' aesthetic sensibility) have stunted men's full human potential, other qualities that are also considered 'masculine,' such as decisiveness, assertiveness, risk taking, and so forth, are in fact valuable in a structure oriented primarily toward partnership rather than domination.
As Susan G. Butruille writes in "Corporate Caretaking', an important 1990 article in Training and Development Journal, the trends we are seeing today in the workplace go along with important trends in people's personal and family lives, particularly the trend towards shared roles by women and men in both work and the family. Butruille reports how, thanks largely to the massive entry of women into the workforce and the rise in dual career couples, a number of studies show that women and men are increasingly concerned about similar issues. In other words, as both work and family relations shift more to partnership, we are seeing a blurring of stereotypical gender-linked attitudes and roles.
For example, Faith Wohl, DuPont's director of the company's recently formed 'Work Force Partnering" Division, says DuPont studies indicate that 'the attitudes of men concerning work and family issues are rapidly approaching those of women, a significant change over what we saw just four years ago.' That is why DuPont and many other companies are now going into what Butruille calls the business of 'corporate caretaking'. That is, they are increasingly recognizing that 'family support policies' (ranging from flexible work schedules and child and elder care assistance to sensitivity training and the use of fax machines and modems to facilitate part-time and/or off-site work) are key contributions to a more productive corporate culture as a whole.
An ethos of 'corporate caretaking' shared by both women and men is clearly a key element in the transformation from a dominator to a partnership business culture. But since this ethos of 'corporate caretaking' in essence stems from what in dominator societies is considered a 'feminine ethos,' this transformation cannot take root unless there are also fundamental redefinitions of stereotypical gender roles, both 'masculine' and 'feminine.'
In her pioneering work, The Female World, sociologist Jessie Bernard describes how what she terms the 'female ethos of love/duty' is conventionally relegated to 'the female world' - the private world of the home to which women are supposed to be confined - rather than the public or men's world. This way as society (and the workplace) changes to incorporate more women, and particularly more women in leadership positions, this 'female ethos' is also more likely to inform the policies, structures and processes of the public world. Moreover, and this is critical, it will also tend to change the whole conception of the relation between women, men, work and power.
In this less gender-stereotyped workplace and society, what psychologist Carol Gilligan calls a more 'feminine view of morality' (focusing on caring for others rather than abstract principles) and what psychiatrist Jean Baker Miller terms a 'more feminine definition of power' (not the capacity to control and limit others, but the 'caretaking and nurturing capacity to foster the growth of others') can become a powerful transformative force. For these values will no longer operationally have to be excluded from social and economic policies, as well as the day-to-day functioning of the workplace, as the management of this workplace (and the society it reflects) shifts to a real partnership between women and men.
A striking example of such a management partnership -and a fitting ending for this essay-is the extraordinarily successful partnership of Anita and Gordon Roddick, whose company, The Body Shop, has become a model for the socially and ecologically conscious corporation of the future. What The Body Shop sells, in Anita Roddick's words, is not only 'sound products' (ecologically sound health and beauty aids) but 'sound values' (from human rights and ecological consciousness to the promise of a humanized workplace). Anita and Gordon's joint aim is to 'rewrite the book of business,' to 'be committed to social responsibility, global responsibility,' and 'to empower their employees.' And largely through Anita's exuberant, often flamboyant, and always unconventional approach to business (which includes a studied irreverence toward the 'old boys' and their ways of operating), and both Anita and Gordon's commitment to a 'feminine ethos' of corporate indeed, global-caretaking), The Body Shop has in a few years grown into a multinational, multi-million dollar business, as well as an important force for positive social change.
In this article, I have focused on the interconnection between access to economic and social policy-making and management roles for substantial numbers of women and the shift from what I have called a dominator to a partnership model of society. Unlike most of what has been written on the entry of women into higher management, my focus has not been on the all too familiar problem of women's difficulties breaking through what is commonly called the invisible 'glass ceiling' built into most business and other organizations, which excludes the female half of humanity. Rather, it has been on the organizational architecture itself-not only its gendered glass ceiling but its totality, including its social and cultural foundations.
What I am proposing is that this architecture needs to be redesigned and that women can make a critical contribution in this regard. I am also suggesting that the presence of women in policy-making and managerial positions is a necessary, though not sufficient, precondition to the economic and cultural shift from what I have called a dominator to a partnership-oriented society-and that this transformation requires that careful attention be paid to hitherto ignored gender issues.
Finally, I believe that this transformation is urgently needed at a time when the stereotypically 'masculine' leadership and management styles, as well as the dominator hierarchies that they help to maintain, are proving incapable of dealing with our mounting economic, social and ecological problems. And I am convinced that, at this time of rapid and potentially destructive technological and social change, only a full and equal partnership between women and men, informed by an ethos of caring, can ensure that the partnership movement that we are seeing in both the workplace and society at large will succeed.