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Humanizing our System: Economics of Partnerism with Riane Eisler

“These movements primarily focus on dismantling the top of the domination pyramid, politics and economics, as conventionally defined. And what happened? This left in place the foundations on which this pyramid keeps rebuilding itself in regression after regression.”

Riane Eisler, PhD and President for the Center for Partnership Systems

In this episode

This special episode of the SheEO.World podcast was recorded at the SheEO Summit March 2021, titled “Humanizing our System: Economics of Partnerism”, with Riane Eisler, PhD and President for the Center for Partnership Systems.

Riane discusses:

  • Understanding the systems of oppression that permeate traditional social categories
  • The Partnership-Domination Social Scale, from the Center for Partnerships, which centralizes the status of women and children in the world
  • The recent invention of warfare and domination societies
  • How we need to dismantle social structures from their foundations
  • And three steps to shift towards a caring economics of partnership

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Podcast Transcript:

The podcast is being transcribed by Otter.ai. (there may be errors, run-on sentences and misspellings).

Riane Eisler 0:00
These movements primarily focus on dismantling the top of the domination pyramid, politics and economics, as conventionally defined. And what happened? This left in place the foundations on which this pyramid keeps rebuilding itself in regression after regression.

Hannah Cree 0:25
This talk was recorded at the SheEO Summit March 2021, titled “Humanizing our System: Economics of Partnerism”, with Riane Eisler, PhD and President for the Center for Partnership Systems. Learn more about her work at www.centerforpartnership.org.

Riane Eisler 0:42
Partnerism is probably a new term for some of you. But as Einstein said it so well, “We cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them”. We need new thinking. And again, my work has been dedicated not only to new thinking, the thinking we need to bring about a more just and caring world, but also to identifying the actions, the steps we can and must take to do this. Now, that’s all detailed in my books, are in The Chalice and the Blade, which by the way, is now in its 57th US printing and 37 foreign editions. And to fast forward to my most recent book, which came out a few months ago with Oxford University Press, Nurturing our Humanity.

But in this short time we have together, I’m going to ask you to start by stepping out of your comfort zone. And yes, take a fresh look at the old social and economic categories we’ve been taught. Because think about it, whether it’s Eastern or Western religious or secular rightist, or leftist, capitalist or socialist, there have been repressive, violent, unjust regimes in every one of these old social categories. So none of them tell us what we have to create, to have a better world. And not only that, and this is critical, if you really think about it, these conventional categories, marginalize or just leave out the majority of humanity, women, and children. By contrast, the partnership system and the domination system are new categories that provide us a holistic way of looking at social systems because that’s what we need to create a better world. What they provide us with is a new tool, what I’ve called the Partnership-Domination Social Scale. It has always, always a matter of degrees. But as you will see, in this scale, the status of women, and yes, of children are key elements. Indeed, as you will see, they are foundational to a better future for us, all women, men, everyone in between and children. Now, the good news is we don’t have to start from square one to move to partnership oriented societies. And with this to a caring economics of partnerism again. And yes, I say again, because there is today enormous evidence dispelling this old story. Well the story you’re all familiar with. It’s so succinctly depicted in the caveman cartoon, isn’t it? He’s holding a club, a weapon, in one hand, with the other hand is dragging a woman by the hair. And what does it tell us? It’s always been this way, by implication, it always will be this way—violence, injustice, male dominance, that’s just human nature. Now, that is a false story. And by the way, this is really detailed in my latest book on nurturing our humanity.

Because we know today for millennia, for 1000s of years in our prehistory know for millions of years in our prehistory, forgive me, societies oriented more to the partnership side of the Partnership-Domination Scale. They were not ideal, but they were more egalitarian. Yes, more gender balanced. Children were not terrorized into submission, and violence, starting with the family all the way to intergroup relations was not the norm. In fact, we are learning from archeology, anthropology, linguistics, DNA studies, that warfare is at most 5000 to 10,000 years old, which really is a drop in the millennia long evolutionary bucket of our species, so that for most of our human adventure here on Earth, we today know that we did not live in domination oriented societies, which are themselves only a recent development about five to 10,000 years ago. And you will have to really get this information into not only the Academy, but into the public discourse. And I’m going to really jump now, to modern times, because if you look at recorded history, through this lens of the Partnership-Domination Social Scale, what you can see is that motor history isn’t just this random collection of events. But we’re seeing during this period when the Industrial Revolution went into high gear in other words, a period again of great disequilibrium, is a strong movement towards partnerism towards the partnership side of the continuum, countered yes by enormous domination, resistance and punctured by periodic regressions. Because despite all their differences, every modern progressive movement has actually challenged the same thing, a tradition of domination.

Think about it. The Enlightenment rites of man movement, challenged the so called divinely ordained right of Kings to rule their code subjects, the feminist and later women’s rights movement, challenged again, the supposedly divinely ordained right of men to rule the women and children in the quote, “castles”, you know, a military metaphor of their homes, the anti-slavery, and then the civil rights anti-colonial Black Lives Matter movements. They’re challenging another, so called divinely ordained, right that of a supposedly superior race to rule over, quote, inferior ones. The movement for economic equity challenged top down control of resources, in other words, domination, economics. The peace movement, and we’re reasonably the movement to stop violence against women and children. And I have to say, this is still a global pandemic, and it’s finally getting attention. And I’ve written extensively about this. What does it challenge? These movements challenge the use of force to impose one’s will on others, which is built into domination systems. And yes, although it was the environmental movement, challenging our once hallowed conquest and domination of nature, that at our level of technological development, could take us to an evolutionary dead end for our species. But if we look more closely, and this is really important, what we see is that these movements primarily focused on dismantling the top of the domination pyramid, politics and economics, as conventionally defined. And what happened? This left in place the foundations, on which this pyramid keeps rebuilding itself, in regression after regression. Whether it’s secular, like Nazi Germany, or Stalin’s Soviet Union, or religious, like so called religious fundamentalism, which if you really think about it, it is domination, fundamentalism. What do they want? They want top down control in both the family and the state or tribe, whether it’s ISIS, the Taliban, Khomeini’s Iran, or the rightest fundamentalist alliance in the US, and all of them not coincidentally, also believe that war is holy, violence is great, right? So really, if we want to move forward, we’ve got to pay well attention to these foundations. And because look, unless we shift the foundations, from domination to partnership, we will continue to have regressions, like what we’re going through right now in are just beginning to come out of in the United States with all the suffering and horror they bring.

And yes, these cornerstones. I want to mention, and again this is detailed in my books, are quite different from what the mainstream conversation as well as the academic conversation has been, at least until now. And we’ve got to change that. They are childhood, because neuroscience shows that our brains, nothing less than our brains, are affected by it by how our brains develop in interaction with our cultural environment, as mediated through families, education, religion, economics, etc. They are gender, and you’ll see why, economics, of course, and stories and language. And they’re all interconnected. But as I said, since we have such a short time, I want to use the rest of it, to focus on the third Cornerstone—economics. Or rather, a new caring economics of partnerism, and some steps three steps that we need to take to create it.

The first step is getting away from the current argument of capitalism versus socialism or vice versa. You know, look, both came out of early industrial times in the 1700s, and 1800s. And we’re in the 21st century post Industrial Age, so they’re outdated, but the problem goes deeper. While both challenged economics of domination: Smith challenged the top down control of kings and Nobles through the mercantilism of this time. Marx challenged the robber baron capitalism of his times, however, both also perpetuated many domination elements. Particularly, and this is central, the devaluation of caring for nature, and caring for people starting at birth, which, by the way, is a key feature of domination economics, whether it’s ancient like that of Chinese emperors, Arab sheiks, Indian Pashas, or the so called neoliberalism or trickle-down economics of today. So for both Smith and Marx, nature was there to be exploited. Nothing in the their theories about caring for our natural life support system. As for the work of caring for people starting at birth, well, for them, that was just women’s work to be done for free in a male controlled household. And the laws supported this. Now, this gendered system of values still permeates economics to this day. So consider somehow there’s never enough money for anything stereotypically considered feminine, like caring for children, people’s health, keeping a clean and healthy environment. And we have to change this.

And that takes us to the second step, showing that caring pays. Not only in human and environmental terms, but in purely financial terms. For instance, companies regularly listed as Fortune 500 Best Companies to Work for have a substantially higher return to investors. Lots of evidence of this in the real of nations, including evidence that nations, yes, that caring policies are good for nations. Nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, which were so poor, they had famines, are today in the highest ranks of the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness reports. And I should add—the international happiness reports. And they are not socialist. They have thriving businesses, precisely because they invested in caring for their human infrastructure, their people. Policies, like universal health care, high quality childcare, generous paid parental leave, and so on. And yes, also in caring for nature, like cutting carbon emissions. And not coincidentally, and this really is so important, I said, all four cornerstones are interconnected. They have the lowest gender gaps, according to the World Economic Forum, with women in top national leadership. Indeed, and I cannot emphasize this enough, and I really need you to spread this information. Statistical studies show the relationship between a higher status of women and national economic success and a higher quality of life for all. And we at the Center for Partnership Studies, conducted one of these early studies, women, men and the global quality of life, and you can get it at centerforpartnership.org.

Which takes us to the third and final step I can cover: changing our measures of economic health. I think you’re all aware that GDP is really a mess. It includes activities that harm and even take life: selling cigarettes, unhealthy fast foods, plus the resulting medical and funeral costs. They’re great for GDP. But GDP fails to include the huge economic contribution of caring for people and for nature. Despite reports, well, like an Australian one showing that if the unpaid caring work in households, mostly still done by women were included, it would be 50%, five-zero percent of the reported GDP. Now, this is why my organization, the Center for Partnership Studies, is developing new metrics. A Social Wealth Index, which I want to emphasize differs from both GDP and most GDP alternatives, because it’s geared to our knowledge service age, showing the enormous economic value, especially in this era of caring for people, you know, that, quote, high quality human capital. Well, whether it’s produced or not depends, neuroscience tells us largely on the quality of care and education children receive, and yes, also caring for nature. And of course, this index is essential for what SheEO is about: women transforming the economy. A team of economists is developing this index. So business and government policymakers finally have the missing information They need to make sound equitable decisions, and I should add, so women who still perform most care work for free, or for very low wages are no longer the poorest of the poor, worldwide, and everyone has a better quality of life. So I invite you to join me in this movement of moving from domination towards a caring economics of partnerism. And as I said, there’s more information at centerforpartnership.org. I thank you.

Hannah Cree 17:16
This talk was recorded at the SheEO Summit March 2021, titled “Humanizing our System: Economics of Partnerism”, with Riane Eisler, PhD and President for the Center for Partnership Systems. Learn more about her work at www.centerforpartnership.org.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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