What Could Possibly Go Right?: Episode 100 Riane Eisler

May 8, 2023

Show Notes

Riane Eisler is a social systems scientist, cultural historian, futurist, and attorney whose research, writing, and speaking has transformed the lives of people worldwide. Her newest work, Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future, co-authored with anthropologist Douglas Fry, shows how to construct a more equitable, sustainable, and less violent world based on Partnership rather than Domination. Dr. Eisler is founder and president of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS), dedicated to research and education.

She answers the question of “What Could Possibly Go Right?” with thoughts including:

  • That “there’s still this distracting argument between capitalism or socialism” and that “yes, we need enlightened government policies, but we really need to go deeper and wider and beyond”
  • The focus on four cornerstones for partnership or domination systems: family/childhood, gender, economics, narratives/language
  • The use of social wealth economic indicators as better measures for quality of life


  • Center for Partnership Systems www.centerforpartnership.org

Connect with Riane Eisler

Website: rianeeisler.com

Twitter: twitter.com/RianeEisler


Vicki Robin: Hello, it’s Vicki Robin here, host of What Could Possibly Go Right, a project of Post Carbon Institute. We interview cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good and social artists, those creative, imaginative people who can see where change can happen and act. Today’s guest is the renowned Riane Eisler.

Riane is a social system scientist, a cultural historian, a futurist, an attorney whose research, writing and speaking has transformed the lives of people worldwide. Her newest work, Nurturing our Humanity, How Domination and Partnership Shape our Brains, Lives, and Future, co-authored with anthropologist Douglas Fry, shows how to construct a more equitable, sustainable, and less violent world based on partnership rather than domination.

Dr. Eisler is president of the Center for Partnership Systems, dedicated to research and education, editor-in-chief of the interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies, an online peer reviewed journal at the University of Minnesota. She is internationally known for her bestseller, The Chalice and the Blade, our History, our Future, now in 27 foreign editions and 57 US printings. Her book on economics, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economy was hailed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a template for the better world we have been so urgently seeking and by Jane Goodall as a call to action. Her Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships, co-authored with Teddie M. Potter won national and international awards. Other books drawing from Eisler’s research include her award-winning Tomorrow’s Children, Sacred Pleasure, and Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life, which statistically documents the key role of women’s status in a nation’s quality of life. So now Riane.

Welcome Riane Eisler to What Could Possibly Go Right, in which I interview cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good. Our focus isn’t what should go right, but what our guests see emerging that lights a path in these times. Our audience are practical change makers, looking for ideas and examples to guide our work and lives.

We are not futurists. We are sort of nowists coming from knowledge of what’s going wrong and we wanna dig into change making in communities and organizations and politics. We want to be the change we want see in the world. And you have a brilliant body of work from The Chalice and the Blade to your newest book, Nurturing our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shapes our Brains, Lives, and Future.

Some may not be familiar with your work. And some may need an update. So I invite you to first talk about the life experiences that brought you to your work, which is an inspiring story. And then lay out your ideas of partnership versus domination systems and something about your four cornerstones for change.

Create a platform for our conversation and whatever else you want us to understand or or know, before showing us what you see emerging anywhere in the world that is tipping us out of domination and into partnership. These could be policies or projects, movements, regenerative practices that reflect what you see as needed.

And also how do we measure our progress? How do we actually not wish and hope, but see that we’re making the change? And so I also want to personally ask about the urgency trap I fall into with every project I do, that the fear of the domination systems and their increasing steamrollering of what you and I love burdens what I do with a sort of anxiety and stress and which bubbles over into pushiness, into actually a sort of dominator model, and the the shift to partnership for people like me can seem too slow or too comprehensive for policy makers.

So I’d love, I wanna like have my coaching session too. So I’d love to have you reflect on this evolution versus revolution dimension of change and what we need to do internally and outwardly to stay sane and work wisely. So with all that, Riane, I want to ask you what I ask all the guests: in the midst of what is going awry, what could possibly go right?

Riane Eisler: I love that question because my work is not just about deconstruction, but about reconstruction. And it is a reconstruction question, what could possibly go right? And there are a lot of trends toward what I have introduced, this partnership domination scale, as you have alluded to. And there are many different trends in that direction.

The environmental movement, which is really in the last decade, become much more mainstream, and that’s very, very good. There are the movements of the women’s international movement and the men’s, trying to redefine our gender identities and of course the movement towards gender fluidity.

There are certainly the movements about economics going beyond both capitalism and socialism, even though there’s still this distraction, really this distracting argument between yes capitalism or no socialism when the reality as my book, The Real Wealth of Nations – it’s a play on Smith, The Wealth of Nations – really points out that we, yes, we need a free market. We don’t happen to have one. And yes, we need enlightened government policies, but we really need to go deeper and wider and beyond. And this really goes back to what you mentioned earlier Vicki, which is what led me to this work because I was really seeking some very deep answers.

And that’s what my work is about. And I consider all of these movements part of the shift from what I’ve called a domination system to this other side, to a partnership system in all of our institutions. And so my work is very whole systems work. It’s very interesting because the people pushing us back are really so very much, they have a, a very coherent frame.

And we are all over the map, those of us who are trying to change it. And what this work offers is not only answers to my quest, but I think what you mentioned earlier, a spiritual and cultural frame. And that is the partnership system. So what could possibly go right is all of these movements move towards partnership and also changing our frame, our worldview.

Vicki Robin: Yeah. I learned the word intersectionality. The movements are now trying, saying that we have to recognize the common interests we have as separate movements. But I think that your idea of partnership takes that further. And for activists, you’re saying that we’re all bumping into the dominator system and it shows up in everything in gender relations and racism and colonialism, it shows up everywhere, you know?

So I would love to hear you talk about that. As movement builders, how we can distinguish between movements that are fighting the dominator system and movements that are bringing forward something that reflect and come from something new.

Riane Eisler: Coming from something new, as Einstein said, we cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them.

And that really has been a motto, a fundamental premise of this work. And it is your premise too. I hear you say let’s not just disrupt, let’s not just resist, let’s create the foundations for something that will work. And this has been my work. And I, I think if you don’t mind, I will go back to my motivation for this work because you mentioned it and I think it, it clarifies a lot. I, along with my parents, I was a child refugee with my parents from the Holocaust, and on Kristallnacht a gang of Gestapo men came to our house and dragged my father off. I witnessed cruelty, destructiveness, violence, but I also witnessed something else that had an enormous impact on me, and that is, what I call today is spiritual courage.

And my mother exhibited that. And it’s the courage not to slay the dragon or kill the enemy, you know, all of the ways that we’ve been taught about courage. It’s the courage to stand up against injustice, out of love. And she recognized one of the Nazis that came as a young man, an Austrian Nazi, who had once been an errand boy for the family business.

And she got furious. She said, how dare you do this to this man who has been so kind to you. I want him back now. She could have been killed. Many Jewish people were killed that night of Kristallnacht, so-called because of all the glass that was shattered in Jewish homes, in businesses, in synagogues but by a miracle, she wasn’t.

By a miracle. She actually obtained not only my father’s release, but a safe conduit so that when the Nazis came back and they did she could show it to them. And eventually we were, some money passed hands, of course, eventually. And eventually, yes, my parents were in a privileged position to be able to purchase an entry permit to Cuba, to Havana, which was one of two places, Shanghai and Cuba, that sold these entry permits to desperate Jewish families.

And we, I grew up in the industrial slums of Havana, where I witnessed and experienced another terrible injustice, the tremendous gaps between those on top and those on bottom in those Batista days in Cuba. And all of this led me to questions that I’m sure many of our listeners have asked, which is, does it have to be this way?

When we humans have, I saw it in my mother, this enormous capacity for consciousness, for caring, for creativity because she was creative. But I also witnessed so much cruelty and sensitivity destructiveness. Is it, as we’re often told, the story of, I mean, I always have to sort of smile because whether it’s original sin or selfish genes, I mean, they fight each other.

But it’s the same story, isn’t it? Yeah. We are bad. We have to be controlled from the top. Is that really how it has to be or are there alternatives? Is there an alternative? And years later, multidisciplinary cross-cultural transhistorical research answered that with a resounding yes, but we cannot see this alternative through the lenses, and this is fundamental, through the lenses of the conventional worldview. Whether it’s conventional studies of society or conventional social categories, which if you really think about it, leave out the majority of humanity, women and children, they’re marginalized, right, left religious, secular, Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern, capitalist, socialist. Where are we?

And also there have been terrible repressive violent societies in every one of these categories. So speaking of reconstruction, none of us tell us what we have to build, right, in order to really move to a more sustainable, more equitable, more caring way of living and making a living. So that’s the background.

Vicki Robin: Yeah. Yeah, I’d love to just lay out another piece of your foundation, if you would, which is the four cornerstones. I mean, we’re talking about partnership and domination and, and how so many of the, most of the systems we deal in are dominator systems. Even when we try to create a new system, we’re doing it out of an old mindset.

So it continues to be something of the arrogance of the dominator system, even in our good ideas about how to fix things. You know? So I think I understand that. And then, you have these four cornerstones, which I think are important to lay out.

Riane Eisler: Definitely. Well, all of this research is really based on empirical observation, and I, I will start with those pushing us back to the domination system because if you really look at them you see something very curious. Their so-called focus, on so-called social issues really is a focus on these four cornerstones. Whether it was Hitler in Nazi Germany, or Stalin in the former USSR or Putin in Russia today, or religious societies like the Taliban or ISIS or Khameini’s Iran, or the right fundamentalist, so-called rightist fundamentalist alliance in the US.

They focus a great deal on these four cornerstones. And I think if I, if I talk about them, one is childhood and family now. Think about it for a moment. What is this focus on parental rights? It’s about parental control, isn’t it? Domination not only of their children. And so many of the writers, fundamentalists, so-called parenting guides, are just a prescription for domination parenting.

You put this kid at the age of 18 months sitting in a high chair, and you absolutely teach that child through the fear of pain. Fear of pain to obey. The parents’ orders, the parent’s word is law. Why? Why did Putin, I mean, to give another example in 2018 really substantially lower the penalty for family violence so that today in Russia, if you hurt or kill a family member this is in a society where violence against women is huge, violence against children is huge, I mean, yes, and I’m sure there are also, it’s also violence against men, so if you hurt or kill a family member, your legal penalty is less than if you hurt a total stranger. Why? You have to ask why?

Well, because Putin recognizes the connection between an authoritarian, rigidly male-dominated, (this is where the second cornerstone comes in gender) highly punitive, violent family, and yes, an authoritarian, rigidly male-dominated, punitive, violent state. Why don’t we see this very simple? I, I woke up one day as if from a long drugged sleep, really to realize that in all my years of so-called higher education, there had been hardly anything by about or for people like me, women, and also really I later as I did this research, realized there’s hardly anything about children.

I mean, it’s beginning to slowly change, but at a glacial pace. And we are still taught to marginalize women’s and children’s issues, gender issues, which is the second cornerstone. And childhood and family. Even though neuroscience, my gosh, I mean, you’d think we’d get it. Neuroscience shows that what children experience or observe in especially in their first five years shapes nothing less than the architecture of our brains, which develops an interaction with our environments, which for humans are primarily of course, cultural, and they’re mediated very largely through family, religion, education, parental rights again, right? Let’s control this.

And as I noted in Nurturing our Humanity, speaking of gender, one of the least known studies about people who voted for Trump is that they shared as a group this very rigid, well, we’ve all internalized it, a gendered system of values, which not only subordinates, the female form to the male form, because those are the basic human forms in our species, but also subordinates anything coded feminine like caring, caregiving non-violence.

And that takes me straight to economics, which is the third cornerstone. Have you noticed that in all of these very different groups pushing us back, right, left religious, secular, Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern, capitalist, socialist; it’s a top down economic control, isn’t it? Whether it’s the former USSR or whether it’s Khameini’s Iran I mean,  it doesn’t really matter, rr whether it is trickle down economics.

So, again, let’s step back for a moment. It isn’t really capitalism per se. It is domination economics trickle down, what is trickle down economics? Whether it was a Chinese emperor or an Arab sheik or an Indian Pasha,it was all top down.

So what, what we’re told by right trickle down economics, which is really obscene, is that those on bottom as in feudal times, should content themselves with the scraps dropping from the opulent tables of those on top. I mean, it’s a whole systems approach. And this hidden system of gendered values was perpetuated by both capitalists, by Smith and by Marx, I mean, they coded that work as just reproductive, the caring work, caring for people.

There’s nothing, by the way, I mean, think about it, about caring for nature in either capitalist or socialist theory. Nature is there to be exploited, period. As for the work of caring for people starting with children, the sick, the elderly, everybody really, that was supposed to be done for free by a woman in a male controlled household, so that even as late as when Marx wrote, a woman, a wife could not, and most women were wives, could not sue herself for injuries negligently inflicted on her, only her husband could for loss of her services.

I mean, let’s think about the gendered system, the ranking that we have inherited, and let’s not fall for this of, oh, it’s just a women’s issue, it’s just a gender issue. It’s a key social and economic principle, as is childhood. And it affects economics. I mean, think about GDP what does it exclude as, quote, externalities? The quote, reproductive work. It’s either I mean, it’s a whole crazy system because we really do value care. In fact, we would be dead if we didn’t get some amount of care. But the system is not set up. So I’ve introduced in The Real Wealth of Nations, a caring economics of partners, which does not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Yes, as I said, we need a market and we need enlightened government policies. But the goal should be caring for people starting at birth and caring for our natural life support systems. It’s, it’s not that complicated, which takes us to the fourth cornerstone, narratives, and, oh, the people pushing us back are brilliant at appropriating morality and family. I mean, all of these stories, and we have to really think about that because they’re not, as I said, just ancillary issues. They’re key. I mean, again, neuroscience shows this. Okay. So all of these stories that we’re told, let’s really step back for a moment and forget about fighting each of the right, left religious, secular, Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern, capitalist, socialist and be, as you said, really cultural entrepreneurs.

Vicki Robin: Right. I have so much that I’m, that I’ve been taking notes on while I’m listening to you. Let me just take a look. So I want to just, on the narratives, I just want to unpack that a little bit. You said that the right has, because in a way you, you also have two ideas about hierarchy, but they have a power-over dominator’s narrative where there is a right way. The liberal mindset or the progressive mindset is that we’re discovering the right way.

It’s a sort of an evolutionary mindset. We don’t have a right way, we have an inkling and we’re living into something different, which has has very little power against that narrative of we know it’s right, and what our job is, is to reproduce that through the generations and through all our institutions, there’s a right and a wrong and anybody who thinks there isn’t a right and a wrong is soft headed, feminine if we will.

So, exactly, I’m sure you’ve worked on this language, like how do we, how, what kind of narrative, what kind of language, what kind of sentences do we use to make a case for the, the caring economy such that it has greater logic than or equal logic to this hierarchical top down.

Riane Eisler: Well, let me back up and then get to your question because you brought up we need new language. It isn’t just narratives and stories. It’s narratives and language. And I coined two ways of looking at hierarchy. We need parents, we need teachers, we need managers, we need leaders. But in a domination system, you have what I’ve called a hierarchy of domination, right?

And we all know that one, you know, it’s really dangerous very, I mean, in a rigid authoritarian domination system, it’s your life that, you know think of the European Middle Ages, right? I mean so however, we also need loci of responsibility in our partnership oriented societies, and I say oriented because really it’s always, it’s a scale, it’s a matter of degree. Okay? No society is perfect, one or the other.

So what we’re talking about here is a hierarchy of actualization. You know, the first book reporting my findings which is now in its 56 or 57th US printing, and about 34th in editions is The Chalice and the Blade and the chalice and the blade are really two are symbols of power.

I mean, people think of it as masculine, feminism, sometimes, but that’s not it because we are all stuck, men and women in these gender stereotypes. We’re beginning to leave them behind, a tremendously important partnership trend. Okay. Alright, so the point that I’m trying to make is that we really have to redefine hierarchy and we have to redefine our, as you say, is a power-over. That’s the blade power to control, to dominate, to take life.

But there’s also this creative power, this power with and power to, to create for goodness sake that is the chalice. And let’s not throw out again, the baby was the bath water. And, and, and yes, I mean we want the organization to be more like spokes, but we do need some direction. And everybody is finding that out and they don’t know what to do with it, but these terms help. And as you say, and I love that, Vicki, it’s an evolution. Language is evolving. I mean, the term empowering, we didn’t have it. Why? Because trust me, in the, in the European Middle Ages, and I’m, we are descended from that. It it, if you really look at it, it looked a lot like the Taliban, the inquisition, the crusades, the witch burnings.

Nobody had any rights. Human rights, women’s rights. Children’s rights. Oh, come on. I mean, so, but pose your question to me again please, because I got really carried away.

Vicki Robin: Oh, it was a question of, of the, you mentioned the incoherent narratives of the, what we could call it, the left, the liberals, the progressives, yes, the multiplicity of issues, the multiplicity of framing. And that every little group has to like, work out their own framing, whereas with the right, it seems like there is a coherent narrative.

Riane Eisler: Absolutely. We need an integrated, progressive agenda. Those pushing us back have it a very integrated, regressive agenda.

And well, I don’t want repeat, but think of how much attention they pay to gender, to family. Violence is built into this thing, and the story. So I’m not saying, I mean, look, if you look at the last 300 years of modern histories through this whole systems lens of the partnership domination biocultural lens, okay, what you see is one social movement, one progressive social movement after another, challenging, the same thing, a tradition of domination, the Enlightenment challenge, the so-called divinely ordained right of king’s rule over their subjects, quote unquote, the abolitionist, civil rights, Black Lives Matter challenge.

Another traditional nomination, the so-called divinely ordained right, of a so-called superior race to rule over inferior ones. The feminist, the women’s rights movement, and, and yes, to some extent the men’s rights movement. I mean, really, this is a wonderful thing too, because we have two halves, two forms of humanity, lots in between, of course, as we’re finding out, but again, challenging the so-called divinely ordained right of men to rule over the women and children in the quote castles, a military image of their homes, all the way to the environmental movemen challenging our so called, hallowed, really divine, the ordained right to dominate, to conquer nature. But if you really look at these movements through this lens, you see that in contrast to those pushing us back, we have paid much less attention or marginalized the movements challenging the four cornerstones, right? You know, family and childhood, gender, and yes, with gender comes this hidden system of gendered values.

It’s not an accident that people who voted for Trump saw gender roles and relations, I started to say that and then I forgot to mention it, but it’s a very important study showing that they really subscribe to very rigid gendered stereotypes, rankings, and with it, the gendered system of values.

I mean, we need this frame. And I think we have just the outlines of it now and the four cornerstones now, but I. I would love to see all of these movements, instead of where we have to fight each other for the scraps falling from the opulent tables.

But if we can somehow understand that that’s how the system has kept us separate and distracted us with all of these different categories, and the partnership domination social scale transcends all of these categories. I mean, I can’t emphasize this enough. if we could see ourselves as part of the movement to shift from domination to partnership from, if you will, ranking to linking from hierarchies of domination to hierarchies of actualization, I think we would really be able to move much more quickly and that is what this work is about.

Vicki Robin: I love this. So many thoughts are coming. One is as you say that, basically the financial system and the money system is a major confounding factor because it does have us all scrambling for scraps and, and then also readjusting our agendas to what, what money will pay for which marginalizes some really good ideas and, and also the fossil fuels, we are sort of hoisted on this, this spear of, we are dependent on a fossil fuel economy and we are threatened by having that taken away from us, number one, just because there is a limited quantity of fossil fuels on this planet, and number two, it’s, it’s controlled by a limited number of corporations who buy the government.

So these two. Our whole thing is based on, it’s almost like you can’t live in this world, I mean, you can, there are rare people who, who live outside the bounds of, of the money system, but rare people. And so I think that needs to be part of, somehow part of the narrative. Or maybe I’m just superimposing my ideas on yours.

Riane Eisler: No, no, no. It, it does it does need to, and this is why we at the Center for Partnership Systems have started to focus not only on providing a new very old, really, because I really forgot to mention that we don’t have to actually start from square one, not only because of what I mentioned about the progressive social movements in the last 300 years, but because for most of our human adventure on this earth, we oriented more to the partnership side and the chalice and the blade nurturing our humanity, et cetera. I mean, document this and document this and it’s still ignored. You know, people go around saying, well, war is inherent. Nonsense. Archeology shows that signs of destruction through warfare are at most five to 10,000 years old, that’s a drop in the evolutionary bucket.

But I, and I think this frame, which. Is not only cross-cultural, but it is also transhistorical, including pre-history, it’s very important, but we have started to focus more and more and more on tools. So one of the tools for really changing the economic system, and we, I would love to find partners in working on this, is what I’ve called social wealth economic indicators.

We launched a prototype, very ad hoc in 2014. And you can find information about it at centerforpartnership.org, showing, see most of the so-called GDP alternatives only give us, is a snapshot of what is. And they really don’t pay much attention to neuroscience, by the way. Whereas the social wealth economic indicators not only pay attention to the latest science, including neuroscience, but they also include not only outputs, but inputs showing what kinds of inputs really make for better outputs.

Investing in caring for people starting at birth and caring for our natural life support systems produces a better quality of life for all. And we at the Center did a study called Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life back in 1995, showing that the status of women, you know, this women’s issue here, gender issue, it’s one of the best predictors of everyone’s quality of life, in some cases better than GDP.

And this has been, this has been verified. So we need these social wealth economic indicators, but we’ve 52 of them and we need to condense and update and we need partners. And funding to do so.

Vicki Robin: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve worked on, I’ve worked on a indicator project in Seattle in 1990, the indicators of sustainability.

Yes. And it’s a fascinating process of working on indicators. And there’s the gross national happiness indicator, and, and they have a set one, I forget now, but nine different dimensions that include spirituality, and rest and leisure. So I think this is the indicators, what we measure, appears, what we measure, we react to, I think that’s important.

So another thing on this, narratives and language. It occurred to me that one of the narratives that keeps us locked in to the current system is the idea of progress. And progress is our most important product, that that idea, that emerged, as sort of the chemical interventions in our way of life emerged in the 1950s.

Progress is our most important product. And even now, with climate, we’re, we’re mesmerized by the technological ways of addressing climate disruption, which are, the carbon drawdown systems, so we’re mesmerized by, by the idea that we’re gonna invent something that’s gonna solve the problems that we created.

So that’s the notion of progress and it’s really got all of us wrapped up in it because if we’re not progressing, we’re losing, and the fear of falling off the edge backwards us very great. So I’ve done a lot of circle process. You know, if you change it, the table from, somebody at the head of the table and everybody receiving it, somebody you knows, a sage on the stage and, bumps on a log, you know, if you change that into a circle where there’s wisdom everywhere in the circle, that actually changes the dynamic. And so it’s, it’s more like it’s progress versus community progress versus, not versus, but the idea of relationships first. The idea here is I’m working with what you’re offering and trying to see how I and we can use what you’re saying to develop sort of populist language to help this transition.

Where I live, there’s there’s the Island County Fair, and everybody goes to the fair. And everybody likes the curly fries. Not everybody, but a lot of people. And so that’s an equalizing. Festivals are equalizing, what brings us together as participants in a place. And that’s the other part of what I’m hearing is I’ve also been very interested in re localization, that actually relationships in a community of place force us into more partnership behavior. So anyway, those are just thoughts to throw out.

Riane Eisler: You can’t sit in a corner, in a circle. I mean, there are no corners. So the structure is what is very, very important. So, However, there is a direct relationship between rewards and structure.

And I think that I will return again to the social wealth economic indicators because we do not reward what is coded as feminine, caring, caregiving, nonviolence, and the social wealth economic indicators will show that actually, especially in our knowledge service post-industrial era this is very, very economically rewarding.

And that actually the best investment that a society can make is in caring for children. And it’s happening in some places in Canada, in some of the north European countries, et cetera. It can happen here, but we are again, you’re quite right. Vicki and I hadn’t thought about it, that we are stuck with this ideal of progress and what we’re learning now.

For example, there is a woman called Lila, June who discovered my work on our early indigenous European societies and how they oriented more to the partnership side. And she is studying early indigenous societies, in tribal societies really and how they worked in harmony with nature.

Now, I’m not saying that we should leave behind all of these wonderful inventions, and I mean and yes, they have within a domination system somewhat softened it, I mean, capitalism, even the top down capitalism has created the better living standard for more and more people. But just think of how much better it could be if we had a different frame.

And this takes us right back to what you would keep emphasizing is structure.

Vicki Robin: Right. So a couple more questions and then we probably should wind up. I could stay on on this with you for a long time. One is you, you use the term reconstruction and in terms of what could possibly go right, where are you seeing whether it’s movements or projects or countries, where are you seeing the reconstruction happening so that our imagination, we can feed our imagination because we see it in reality?

Riane Eisler: Well, when President Biden kept pushing and keeps pushing parental leave on early childhood education, that is a very important partnership trend because change happens both from the bottom and rom those who have control of resources and power. But, I think that we have to remember something that’s exactly what got compromised out of his proposals, right?

So we’re right back to what values, what do we value, and to neuroscience and to the lack of a frame that really includes the whole of humanity that recognizes what we know from neuroscience. We also, by the way and this is I think germane to this technology, we are now going into this whole AI era.

And again, technology is values neutral. It depends on how it is programmed, especially AI, which is really very much like parenting, right, programming, AI. So we developed a partnership technology toolkit, which actually can be used by organizations on the ground by governments, et cetera.

It’s based on the four cornerstones, because the question is what do we, what, what do we consciously or unconsciously value and perpetuate through technology. And so we need people who can invent means and help us develop the social wealth indicators, either an index or a condensation of these 52 variables, because that’s just too much to take into account.

But what we really need, as you realize is new language and new stories. Because they’re all interconnected, aren’t they? These four cornerstones.

Vicki Robin: And news stories. I mean, one of my foci, I guess you’d say is I used to call myself a step down transformer. I, I take large concepts and I put them into language that feels every day, feels like it, it’s pertinent to everyday lives because sometimes our language floats up there and it, it doesn’t, it doesn’t relate to, to things that people are concerned about or how they talk to themselves in one another.

So I think that this like idea of the toolkit and, and, and having organizations and groups and whatever, use that values, like your language and just check, use the language to check, are we, are we embodying a dominator system?

Riane Eisler: Precisely. Yeah, because I mean, just to change the deck chairs on the Titanic and change who’s gonna be on top? It’s not the answer.

Vicki Robin: So, and finally I put this in my little intro talking about my own failing of, of when urgency shows up in any issue I work in, I tend to move into my dominator self. Cause the change, I feel that the change is not happening fast enough. And I feel an urgency because I’m afraid of the, the rapidity of the regressive forces.

And so it’s like how do we, how do we stay settled in ourselves? How do we trust, how do we do this? And while as human beings, these changes are impinging on us, we’re, we’re feeling the fear and the uncertainty and the desire to like, just sort of like, I wanna be the dominator.

I want my ideas to dominate. I used to say, dictators are actually, very effective in making rapid change. It’s just they have to agree with me. So, but it’s that sort of mentality that how do we live with this, Riane. How are you living with this?

Riane Eisler: With difficulty, because, well, I should say, first of all, I think we need to recognize that perfection is the enemy of the good. And to not hold ourselves to these impossible standards. And perhaps what you call, you want to be the dominator. Perhaps it can be redefined in a different way. That you want to do everything that you can to, and use every resource that you have, including your wonderful fertile active mind and your facility with language to accelerate the process.

That is in my mind yeah, maybe it does have an element, it can have an element of, I want my ideas to be there. And I struggle with that. You know as all of us do. But I know that we need a new worldview, a new paradigm, and that the closest that I’ve been able to come is with the language of domination and partnership.

And partnership does not just mean working together. It means a certain less authoritarian less violent structure in all of our institutions, from the family to religion, to politics, to education, to economics. So I think we are all in a period of transition, really, and I like to think of it as the struggle, the real struggle for our future is not between right and left and capitalism and socialism and religious and secular. First of all, we got all of these categories from more rigid domination times. I mean, that should tell us something here, right? But it’s really between those pushing us back to more rigid dominator structures in the whole spectrum, the whole system.

And those of us who are yes, trying to reinvent using all of the knowledge we can of our past, of our present, and about the possibilities for our future. And that is a struggle. And I think that if we can see there’s some wonderful graphics at Center for partnership.org describing the configuration of the domination system is contrasted to the configuration of the partnership system describing a caring economics of partners.

If we think of it in terms of these trans cross-cultural ideas then we have a frame that is different, really different from the old domination frame. And in a period of great disequilibrium like ours, technological, economic climate change, et cetera, people either clinging to, let’s go back to what worked or denial. Denial is built into the domination psyche, starting very early on, going to climate change, denial, the election result, denial you name it. I mean, it’s, it’s all denial. And, and, and, and we do our best. But I do believe that a frame is essential because otherwise we’re just floundering all over the place rather than recognizing what’s really the problem. And that’s how we can contribute to this shift through everything we’re doing. But yes, focusing on these four cornerstones. Because they’re fundamental.

Vicki Robin: Yeah. Thank you so much for elaborating this framework that is a gift to all of us who are out here in the trenches. We can check ourselves according to that framework.

And also, we’re all in process. We’re in this together and we’re actually doing it together, the thrust of evolution itself is it’s emergent. There is no fixed future that we’re going into. We’re just participating. We’re participating with change.

And it can be frustrating and it can throw us back into our sort of child cells, we’re afraid of our parents and stuff like that. But it’s I can feel through you something of the sort of bones of the kind of change that we’re all participating in and that unites us. So those of us who are trying to be in a healing relationship with one another and the earth and all the diversity of life. So I just wanna thank you so much for this time together.

Riane Eisler: Well, thank you Vicki and I really am grateful to you and I want to work with you and have you be what you already are. But in a very frame sense because I do think that having this frame and recognizing that it isn’t right or left or religious or secular or Eastern or Western or Northern or Southern, it’s domination or partnership.

Vicki Robin: So that’s the final word, domination or partnership. And thank you so very much. Thank you.

Vicki Robin

Vicki Robin is a prolific social innovator, writer, speaker, and host of the What Could Possibly Go Right? podcast. She is coauthor with Joe Dominguez of the international best-seller, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence (Viking Penguin, 1992, 1998, 2008, 2018). And author of Blessing the Hands that Feed Us; Lessons from a 10-mile diet (Viking Penguin, 2013), which recounts her adventures in hyper-local eating and what she learned about food, farming, belonging, and hope. Vicki has lectured widely and appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning America,” and National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” and “Morning Edition.” She has also been featured in hundreds of magazines including People Magazine, AARP, The Wall Street Journal, Woman’s Day, Newsweek, Utne Magazine, and the New York Times. She currently lives on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound and is active in her community on a range of social and environmental issues including affordable housing, local food, and community investing. For fun, she is a comedy improv actress, sings in a choir, gardens, and nurtures a diverse circle of friends.

Tags: building resilient communities