Saturday, March 7, 2015

Riane Eisler

Since I'm reading some of her work now, and consider her worthy of her own thread at IPS, I'll copy and paste some previous posts on her to start.


From Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade:

"In that classic Marxist work, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Friedrich Engels was one of the first to link the emergence of hierarchies and social stratification based on private property with male domination over women" (45).

Thus the partnership societies of old Europe (chalice) were invaded and conquered by the warriors from the north and south (blade), and with it hierarchical relationships that led to slavery, private property and domination. Capitalism is a direct outgrowth of this dominator culture, which unconsciously infects to this day the sorts of hierarchical models we continue to use in the name of evolution. Wilber even has a term for it: dominator hierarchy. Unfortunately he doesn't seem aware how his own hierarchical model is unconsciously affected by this inherent cultural bias via capitalism and private property.


I'm pretty sure Wilber borrowed the term "dominator hierarchy" from Eisler.  I don't know that there is much disagreement between them conceptually, as even Eisler is careful to point out that she is critiquing dominator hierarchies, and not the concept of hierarchy in general.*
I think the difference is, as you point out, that Wilber seems to consistently display a cultural bias favoring capitalism and private property, and feels that we can overcome dominator hierarchy while retaining these frameworks.

* From Eisler and Montouri's The Partnership "However, and this is a critical point about the partnership model that we have repeatedly emphasized in consulting for business and government, the change towards flatter organizations should not lead us to believe that hierarchy itself is outdated or only found in dominator systems, and that we should now completely abolish hierarchies of any kind. We have to be careful not to engage in oppositional thinking, and immediately reject any concept or practice associated with the dominator system in favor of its exact opposite. As noted earlier, Eisler specifically differentiates between hierarchies of domination, which are driven by the desire to control and oppress, and hierarchies of actualization, which support a greater unfolding of potential."

If you look at the prominent writers who have promoted "web of life" and other more networked structures that have come to the fore via systems thinking, I haven't found any of them who deny that hierarchies exist in nature as well.  PatternDynamics includes Hierarchy, Network, and Holarchy all as natural dynamic patterns that exist in all systems.  The issue then becomes how to express these patterns in a healthy way, and how to balance and integrate them depending on the situation and context. 

I am of the opinion that regardless of value judgments, a) an emphasis on hierarchies was to be expected during the period of energy abundance that we've had the last two hundred years, as an expression of Howard Odum's Maximum Power Principle; and b) as we enter the age of declining available energy, the best way to maximize power is to share it in mutually supportive networks. Mutual support and reciprocity with no waste and no greed is the new mechanism to survive and thrive. 


As you may or not know, I do not reject hierarchy per se, just a certain kind. I went into this in detail in a few threads, like real/false reason and the fold. Dominator hierarchies are based in the same metaphysical premises as capitalism, both arising from what Lakoff calls false reason, or Gebser calls deficient rationality.

Eisler's partnership model expresses healthy hierarchy/heterarchy with real reason. Note that her partnership societies are gender equitable, as well as in/out, one/many balanced. Male-dominated societies are not gender equitable and arise from the unbalanced sort of metaphysical dominator hierarchies. What you call "mutually supportive networks" is that sort of partnership balance. As is the emerging new Commons beyond capitalism and private property.

To the extent kennilingus holds on to capitalism, even conscious capitalism, is the extent to which it participates in a dominator hierarchy. And quite a few in the broader integral movement have noticed this.

I'd mentioned somewhere that I was reading Eisler's The Real Wealth of Nations. I've attached this document that summarizes the chapters.

From chapter two:

Opposing Economic Societal Structures

The domination system allows only for dominating or being dominated. Hierarchies of domination result in scarce trust, high tension, and system cohesiveness based on fear and force. Leaders control and disempower. To succeed, a domination system suppresses caring and empathy.

In contrast, a partnership system supports mutually respectful and caring relations. Hierarchies of actualization allow for accountability, bi-directional respect, and input from all levels. Leaders facilitate, inspire, and empower. Economic policies and practices support needs: basic survival, community, creativity, meaning and caring – the realization of highest human potentials.
No society is pure partnership or domination system – it’s always a matter of degree. The top-down domination system is a holdover from earlier feudal and monarchic times.

Eisler from "Beyond capitalism and socialism":

"The ultimate goal of economic policy should not be the level of monetary income per person, but developing the human capabilities of each person."


Nice. And here is Eisler from chapter 12 of The Chalice and the Blade (p. 173):

"Thus, although a rigidly hierarchical social structure like androcracy [man rule], which imprisons both halves of humanity in inflexible and circumscribed roles, is quite appropriate for species of very limited capacity like social insects, it is truly inappropriate for humans. And at this juncture in our technological evolution, it may also be fatal."

Excellent comparison, androcracy being evolutionarily equivalent to insects. I thought I was being harsh comparing it to feudalism or calling it regressive.

I'm just starting to explore her work. It is consistent though with P2P and the Commons. An org she participates in is at this link. I'm looking forward to reading the articles on partnership spirituality on this page. She is referenced quite a bit at the P2P Foundation.

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