More Than Money
Issue #37

Money and Community

Table of Contents

“Saving the Future - The Power of Partnership”

Thoughts from Riane Eisler

Based on a conversation with Pamela Gerloff

Riane Eisler, J.D., is a cultural historian and evolutionary theorist. She has authored numerous articles and books, including the international bestseller The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future (Harper & Row, 1987), Tomorrow's Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education for the 21st Century (Westview Press, 2000), and the award-winning The Power of Partnership: Seven Relationships That Will Change Your Life (New World Library, 2002). She cofounded, with Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams, the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence. She also founded the Alliance for a Caring Economy and is president of the Center for Partnership Studies. Dr. Eisler was included as the only woman and living theorist among 20 great thinkers, including Hegel, Spengler, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Arnold Toynbee, and Teilhard de Chardin to be featured in Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change (edited by Johan Galtung and Sohail Inayatullah, Praeger Publishers, 1997).

As a child, Riane Eisler was nearly a victim of Nazi genocide. In an effort to make sense of her family's experiences during the Holocaust, she embarked upon a lifelong study of humanity's capacity to act inhumanely. Her extensive, multidisciplinary study of cultures throughout history led her to formulate a new conceptual framework for understanding the social systems that create and maintain cultures of violence. She concluded that underlying the many differences among societies are two basic social configurations, which she calls the dominator model and the partnership model. Here, Riane Eisler discusses the implications of the dominator/partnership model in terms of money and community. The Imperative to Think Globally

When we talk about "community," many people tend to think of local community. I don't. Certainly we want to invest in our local communities, but today I think we need to look at community on a global scale. We live in a technologically interconnected world. Given the development of nuclear and biological weaponry and our capacity for global destruction, there is no longer any denying that we're all in this together.

Money and Economics in Dominator and Partnership Systems
For many years I have been developing an understanding of economics as something that arises out of the larger culture in which it is embedded. We're used to thinking about cultures in fragmented ways, e.g. , religious/secular, right/left, eastern/western, economically sophisticated/ unsophisticated, or capitalist/ socialist. These classifications don't describe whole cultures: beliefs and institutions -from the family, education, and religion to politics and economics. These fragmented ways of thinking can't help us solve our collective problems and find ways to create a safe and fulfilling future and a better life for us all.

After years of empirical cross-cultural and historical research, I formulated a different means of classifying cultures. It's a conceptual framework that allows us to identify and examine qualitative differences in the types of relationships present in any culture-in families, local communities, organizations, groups, or societies. The framework distinguishes between relationships based on domination or control (the dominator model) and relationships based on mutual benefit or accountability (the partnership model). The framework allows us to recognize that most cultures are not located at the extreme ends of the spectrum but fall somewhere along a continuum, and at any given time, are likely to be moving toward one end of the continuum or another.

Economics in the two models look very different. Economic systems in societies oriented toward the dominator model chronically create scarcity. In developed countries, scarcity is built into the economy by the money system itself. 1 Another way scarcity is artificially created in dominator societies is through the misdistribution of resources. Money in such societies is supposed to trickle down from top to bottom, but in actuality it accumulates at the top. Investment is in social policies that support domination and control. More money is spent, for example, on weapons, armies, and prisons than on schools, healthcare, and libraries. This funneling of financial resources not only destroys people and physical resources, it also siphons off financial and human resources that could otherwise be used to meet human needs. It results in a scarcity of resources to invest in human capital, such as childrearing and education.

If we're serious about creating a more prosperous world, the most important investment we can make is in human potential. I believe that an economic system rooted in a dominator model is no longer sustainable, and is in fact becoming increasingly dangerous and ineffective in our global culture.

In a society oriented toward the partnership model, the major economic investment is not in punishment and control (which are forms of domination) but in people. The society invests in social policies that support the development of human potential-in economic terms, high quality human capital. Because such investments are essential for post-industrial economies, the partnership model is a more realistic choice than the dominator model for countries that want to thrive economically in our era.

The Dominator and Partnership Models Dominator Model
In a dominator-oriented society, relationships tend to be hierarchical, authoritarian, and based on domination or control. Typically, one gender is subordinate to the other, and there is a high degree of institutionalized or built-in violence (e.g., child abuse, warfare).

Partnership Model
In a partnership-oriented society, relationships are based on mutual benefit and accountability. Hierarchies may exist, but they are "hierarchies of actualization." People at the top use their rank and authority to empower, rather than disempower, those lower in the hierarchy. Both genders are equally valued, and values such as caring and nonviolence are highly regarded, whether they are embodied in men or women. Orientation to each model is a matter of degree; societies and groups seldom conform entirely to either model, but instead are oriented toward one or the other end of the dominator/partnership continuum. Currently, the partnership model is most highly developed in the Nordic world, but there are trends toward partnership worldwide.

Economic Prosperity, Women's Status, and Quality of Life
The Center for Partnership Studies, the organization I direct, does research on practical applications of the partnership model. For example, we did a study using statistical data from 89 nations and compared measures of the status of women with measures of quality of life, 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 be a better predictor of quality of life than Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Kuwait and France, for example, had identical GDPs, but quality of life indicators were much more positive in France, where the status of women is higher than in Kuwait. Infant mortality was twice as high in Kuwait, even though GDP was the same.

More authoritarian (dominator) cultures are also associated with high levels of built-in, socially condoned violence, such as rape, pogroms, lynchings, and aggressive wars. Political terrorism is strong in cultures where women and children are terrorized into submission, as this behavior models using violence to impose one's will on others.

We also found a positive correlation between economic prosperity and measures of women's status. For example, the social policies of Nordic nations such as Sweden, Norway, and Finland, where the status of women is higher (for instance, women compose 30-40 percent of legislatures), orient more to the partnership model. Here, stereotypically "feminine" activities of caregiving are supported by universal health care, childcare allowances, and paid parental leave. These nations also invest more in nonviolence: they pioneered the first peace studies programs, passed laws prohibiting violence against children in families, and have a strong men's movement to disentangle "masculinity" from domination and violence. These nations show that the partnership model is not only more humane; it is economically effective. The Nordic nations consistently rate at the top of United Nations Development Reports. Not only that, but in 2003, Finland was second only to the much larger and wealthier United States in global economic competitiveness ratings.

Historically, we see that when nations invest in human capital, they become more prosperous. Norway is a good example. In the early 20th century, Norway's infant mortality rate was high. That changed as the country began to shift to a more nurturing economy, investing in child care (not only in day care, but in childcare allowances for families), family planning, paid parental leave, health care, and elder care with dignity (not a handout). Like other Nordic nations, Norway, whose economy is a mix of central planning and free enterprise, pioneered economic inventions that invest in nurturing. None of this was coincidental; it was part of the move toward the partnership model.

These data indicate that we need to move beyond conventional economic categories and models, and take into account the entire culture if we are to build foundations for a more generally prosperous, equitable, and sustainable future.

Investing in Leverage Points

Although we in the West have made enormous strides in the last century toward the partnership model-through such efforts as the civil rights, social and economic justice, and women's movements -we are currently in a period of regression worldwide. There is a widening gap between haves and have-nots. Religious fundamentalism is on the rise. Institutionalized violence, such as war and terrorism, is widespread. These are signals of a move toward the dominator end of the continuum. At this critical point in history, the most important investment we can make is in helping to accelerate the movement toward partnership. To do this, we need to ask ourselves: What are our values? And we need to invest in those areas that leverage change in alignment with those values-areas that will have a cascade of systemic effects, influencing many levels of the culture.

Besides changes in economic measurements of productivity (which today don't include the socially and economically essential work of caring and caregiving in the informal economy) and developing new partnership economic models, one of the most powerful leverage points for accelerating the global shift to partnership is changing beliefs, laws, and practices that promote violence in families and other intimate relationships. If we are serious about creating a peaceful world, we need to start with our primary relations.

The Link between Intimate and International Violence
It is in our intimate relationships that we learn either to respect the human rights of others or to consider human rights violations to be just the way things are. Environments where intimate violence occurs become training grounds where people learn to use force to impose their will. We know from neuroscience that we're not born with a fully formed brain. The neurochemical pathways that become habitual for us are largely formed only after we're born. So, whether we are exposed to dominator or partnership models of behavior affects our neurochemical pathways. We have data clearly showing the negative effects on children when there is violence in families.

The dominator model requires fear and force to maintain domination. In such a system, the only alternatives are to dominate or be dominated. Dominator systems keep us fixated at the lower levels of psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We remain focused on what Maslow called our "defense" or survival needs, rather than on our "growth" and actualization needs.

Since, in dominator systems, people don't survive very long if they don't learn never to question orders, bringing up children with fear is adaptive to those systems. But it is maladaptive in terms of realizing our enormous human potential.

Partnership parenting is very different from domination parenting. Parents can be authoritative without being authoritarian. In a partnership model of parenting, children can experience consequences for inappropriate behavior, but violence is not part of it. We need to change laws and customs that condone physical punishment against children in families, as some Nordic nations have already done. (In the United States, corporal punishment in families is legal in all 50 states and in schools in 22 states.)

By investing in efforts to facilitate partnership parenting and help stop intimate violence, we can help facilitate the global shift toward partnership.

Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence
One example of such an effort is a program of the Center for Partnership Studies with which I am deeply involved: the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence. We emphasize the link between international and intimate violence. We offer materials for the prevention of violence, focusing on partnership parenting models in the home. We also provide similar tools for communities; and we work with religious and spiritual leaders, enlisting them to take a strong stand for partnership relations and against violence in intimate relations.

Of course, it is not only what we do in our own families, it is also what culturally supported that affects violence worldwide--and changing traditions of intimate violence is a largely ignored piece of public policy. Making changes in the family arena can make huge difference.

All of this is exciting, systemic work, with tremendous implications for how we use our resources, including money. It is also critical for our survival at this time in history. That's why I am investing so much of my time, energy, money, and love in this work. The way I see it, we have to invest in the larger community if our grandchildren are to have safe, sane, and wonderful future.

The Power of Partnership: Seven Relationships That Will Change Your Life
By Riane Eisler
(New World Library, 2002)
This handbook for personal, economic, and social transformation received the Nautilus award for the best self-help book of 2002. Its thesis is that the individual self cannot be helped in isolation from the larger web of relationships around us. The book discusses seven relationships, including relationship with oneself; intimate relations; work and community relationships; and relationships with one's national community, the international community, and nature and spirituality.

Center for Partnership Studies The Center for Partnership Studies is an educational and research institute formed to apply Dr. Riane Eisler's cultural transformation theory to the general project of building a better world.

The Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence is a public service project of the Center for Partnership Studies. It promotes change in cultural patterns and public policies that perpetuate intimate violence.

1 Editor's Note: See "Creating a Giving Culture: An Interview with Bernard Lietaer" by Pamela Gerloff in More Than Money Journal , Issue 34, Fall 2003.

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