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Riane
Eisler
Riane Books and Chalice
  

 
 
 

KEY AREAS OF INFLUENCE

Evolutionary and Human Development Theory

The book Macrohistory and Macrohistorians (Praeger, 1997) features Eisler’s theoretical contribution along with those of prominent macrohistorians such as Giambattusta Vico, Oswald Spengler, Karl Marx, Arnold Toynbee, Adam Smith, and Pitirim Sorokin. Eisler is the only living macrohistorian and the only woman included in this until now all male group.

Eisler’s cultural transformation theory has gained international attention.  On publication of The Chalice and The Blade (Harper and Row, 1987), anthropologist Ashley Montagu called it Athe most important book since Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Eisler’s findings have been substantiated by scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Science, who tested her cultural transformation theory in a multidisciplinary study of Asian prehistoric and historic cultural development, reporting their findings in The Chalice and The Blade in Chinese Culture, published and distributed both in English and Chinese during the Fourth U.N. Conference for Women in Beijing in 1995.

Eisler was also the only female co-founder of the General Evolution Research Group, a multi-disciplinary group of scholars from Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Russia, China, and the U.S. headed by systems philosopher and evolutionary theorist Ervin Laszlo.

The noted Sumerian scholar Samuel Noah Kramer used Eisler’s theoretical framework for one of his last books, The Myths of Enki.  In 1995, a special section of Pluriverso, a journal for European intellectuals published by Rizzoli, was devoted to Eisler’s new theory, featuring her concept of gylany. Panels of historians and classicists focusing on Eisler’s new analysis of history have been presented at conferences. The archaeologist Marija Gimbutas used Eisler’s term gylany and Eisler’s cultural transformation theory to advance her own interpretation of prehistory in her final work, The Civilization of the Goddess. The philosopher Mara Keller, the historian of myth Malcolm Godwin, and many others have used Eisler’s cultural transformation theory and partnership and dominator models in their writings about prehistory.

Eisler’s theories on both biological and cultural evolution are included in many anthologies, such as The Great Adventure: Toward a Fully Human Theory of Evolution (SUNY Press, 2003), The Evolutionary Outrider: The Impact of the Human Agent on Evolution (Adamantine, 1998), and The Evolution of Cognitive Maps: New Paradigms for the Twenty-first Century  (Gordon and Breach Science Publishers,1993).  Her articles on evolution and human development have also been published in various scientific and popular publications; for example, “The Dynamics of Cultural and Technological Evolution: Domination versus Partnership.”  (World Futures, 2002) and “Nature, Nurture, and Caring: We are not Prisoners of Our Genes,” with Daniel S. Levine, (Brain and Mind, 2003).  She is currently working on a new book based on her most recent research and thinking on evolution and human possibilities.

 

Women’s and Children's Rights as Human Rights

Drawing from her training as an attorney and constitutional law expert and her background in sociology, women's studies, and systems theory, Eisler has been a major architect of a new integrated approach to human rights. In 1987, Eisler’s article “Human Rights: Toward an Integrated Theory for Action” was published by the Human Rights Quarterly, the first time this prestigious journal published an article proposing that women’s rights are human rights. Eisler then took this approach further to propose a new framework that no longer splits off from human rights theory and action the rights of the majority – women and children – as merely “women's rights” and “children's rights” through articles and book chapters such as Human Rights and Violence: Integrating the Private and Public Spheres." In The Web of Violence, Lester Kurtz and Jennifer Turpin, editors (University of Illinois Press, 1996).

This work integrates the so-called public and private spheres into a unified conceptual framework that continues to influence human rights theory and action.

Essays by Eisler on human rights have been read into the Congressional Record and translated into several languages, including Chinese. Her reformulation of human rights theory and action inspired an international conference on human rights in Idaho attended by over 900 people in 1993.

In 1986, with Allie Hixon, then Co-Chair of the National Women’s Conference Committee, Eisler wrote The ERA Facts and Action Guide to spearhead another push for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. That work drew from Eisler’s earlier The Equal Rights Handbook (Avon, 1978), the first mass circulation book to explain this proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Eisler’s Dissolution: No-fault Divorce, Marriage, and the Future of Women (McGraw-Hill, 1977) was the first to explore in depth the implication for women of no-fault divorce and to predict the “feminization of poverty” that became a national issue in the 1980s and continues into our time.

In the early 1970s, as a crusading attorney, Eisler drafted legislation advancing women’s rights for the California legislature. In 1970 she was the author of an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that preceded the success of Reed v. Reed, for the first time holding that gender-based discrimination violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Most recently, Eisler proposed a Caring Family Policy Agenda that includes a Declaration of Children’s Rights, A Strong American Family Partnership, and A Family-friendly American Economy (See http://www.rianeeisler.com/articles/agenda.pdf)

Politics and Economics

Eisler’s work transcends old political and economic categories such as right versus left, religion versus secularism, and capitalism versus communism.  It shows how the partnership and domination systems as two underlying possibilities for structuring human relations mold politics and economics. 

Eisler’s book The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics (Berret-Koehler 2007) shows that many of our economic models and practices are our legacy from times that oriented more closely to the domination system. It shows that our most important economic assets are not financial that the real wealth of nations consists of the contributions of people and our natural environment. It shows that the great problems of our time from poverty and inequality to war, terrorism, and environmental degradation Care due largely to flawed economic systems that fail to value and support the most essential human work: the so-called “women’s work” of caring and caregiving. It describes new business and government policies and practices, innovative economic indicators that incorporate caregiving activities, and introduces a new economic system that goes beyond capitalism and socialism: a caring economics.

The Chalice and The Blade already opened this new economic discourse, which was then expanded in Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Spirituality and the Politics of the Body (Harper Collins, 1995).  The Power of Partnership (New World Library, 2002) introduced a new politics of partnership as part of an integrative agenda for personal and social transformation

Eisler was the principal investigator and senior author of Women, Men and the Global Quality of Life, a three-year study published by the Center for Partnership Studies in 1995.  Recognized as an outstanding contribution by experts in global development and based on extensive statistical and qualitative analysis, this study for the first time substantiated a strong relation between equality for women and the general quality of life for everybody. Utilizing data from 89 nations, it not only shows the inadequacy of GNP and GDP as measures of quality of life, but helps lay the statistical ground for new, more realistic and humane indicators.  The book was rushed into publication for distribution to delegates and NGO leaders attending the U. N. Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995.

While Marx wrote about the alienation of labor, Eisler writes about the alienation of caring labor B  the fact that the most essential work of caregiving is accorded so little value that it is not even included in calculations of economic productivity such as GDP (Gross Economic Product). In addition to her books, she has written a number of articles on this subject, including “The Economic Imperative for Revisioning the Rules of the Game: Work, Values, and Caring,” which is part of an anthology on how business can work for the common good published by Stanford University Press in 2007. In this article she describes the Alliance for a Caring Economy (ACE) to help change policy and institutional infrastructures in directions that support rather than interfere with partnership organizational values and activities.

Throughout, Eisler shows how raising the status of women, and with this the status of the stereotypically “feminine,” is central to building a more sustainable and equitable economic system for all.

Most recently, Eisler has launched the Real Wealth Public Policy Initiative which is working with the Urban Institute in Washington DC to lay the ground for economic indicators that go beyond GDP and give visibility and value to the life-sustaining activities in households and nature. (Please see http://www.rianeeisler.com/documents/9-20publicplicyRWNtwo-pager-1.pdf).

Business and Organizational Development

Eisler’s work has influenced business and organizational development through books (her own and those of others) and through Eisler’s speeches about partnership in the corporate culture, the partnership model in management, partnership creativity, women and management, and the partnership model for technology. She has spoken at corporations such as SBC, DuPont, Microsoft, Disney, Procter & Gamble, UBS, and Volkswagen International, as well as business organizations such as the Social Venture Network, Businesses for Social Responsibility, and the World Business Academy.

Eisler has published articles on the application of the partnership model and cultural transformation theory in professional journals, and shown applications to health care, the environment, and organizational learning, for example, through her distinction between hierarchies of domination and hierarchies of actualization, as well as her documentation of the value of caring for business success. (This is documented at length in Eisler’s, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, 2008).

Again, here Eisler shows how the entry of women into what was once a “man’s world” has helped to humanize the workplace and how women in positions of leadership have made, and continue to make, a difference in the world. (See for example, http://www.partnershipway.org/learn-more/articles-by-riane-eisler/articles/women-men-and-management-redesigning-our-future).

 

Peace

Eisler’s work introduces a systemic approach to peace that is beginning to gain currency: building a culture of peace.  This new approach proposes that peace education begin with nonviolence in parent-child and gender relations as foundational to a culture of peace. 

To this end, Eisler founded the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV) in conjunction with Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams. The purpose of SAIV is to raise awareness to the link between intimate violence and the violence of crime, terrorism, and war. Since most people in the world are religious and religious leaders have great moral authority, SAIV engages religious and other spiritual leaders to take a strong stand condemning violence against women and children as a key moral issue. It also seeks to influence policy makers to commit time and resources to combat violence in the primary human relations between men and women and parents and children where people first learn to use force to impose their will on other, as well as to provide materials to the public on prevention of intimate violence.

Eisler’s analysis of the connection of intimate violence with warfare and other forms of group violence has been featured in many publications, including the Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict and the World Encyclopedia of Peace.

She received many honors for her work on peace, including the 2009 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award, earlier awarded to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Population and the Environment

The link between a partnership or dominator family and social organization and
Eisler’s systems approach correlates environmental issues with a partnership or dominator culture.  In The Chalice and The Blade, Sacred Pleasure, Tomorrow’s Children, The Power of Partnership, and The Real Wealth of Nations, she shows the connection between a dominator ethos of “conquest of nature” and the environmental degradation and depletion now reaching crisis proportions.  A key component of partnership education is what Eisler calls caring for life: for self, for others, and our Mother Earth.

Eisler also shows the integral connection between environmental sustainability and population, and how this in turn requires raising the status of women worldwide.  She shows how the subordination of women has been, and continues to be a major factor in the overpopulation crisis, with all its deleterious environmental and social consequence.

Eisler has spoken at many environmental meetings, for example, an Earth Day address in Lincoln Park, Chicago, and the Hollywood Call for Ecology Action in Los Angeles, and is a Councilor of the World Future Council in Hamburg, which focuses on the impact current policies and practices, especially environmental ones, have on future generations.

Leadership

Eisler’s work has inspired leaders worldwide. To train leaders in how to use Eisler’s work in fields ranging from politics and business to education, religion, and the media, the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) offers PhD and Master’s degrees in Transformative Leadership and Transformative Studies with a concentration in Partnership Studies. Both programs are online. Based on the Cultural Transformation Theory developed by Eisler, the primary focus of the programs is to develop thought-leaders who are committed to exploring leading-edge issues in innovative ways, combining scholarship, creativity and self-inquiry (please see http://www.rianeeisler.com/documents/7CIISflierSept2009.pdf).

Eisler has written about leadership in a variety of publications ranging from the Integral Leadership Review to Enlightened Leadership. She has received numerous awards for her own leadership, including the 2009 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award, earlier awarded to the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jacques Cousteau, Helen Caldicott, King Hussein of Jordan, and Walter Cronkite.

Education

A major contribution of Eisler’s work over 30 years has been to the field of education.

Eisler teaches in the Transformative Leadership program offering Master’s and PhD degrees with a concentration in Partnership Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).

Eisler's books are used by educators at the university and secondary levels. These works are assigned readings in university courses ranging from sociology, psychology, organizational development, and political science to education, women's studies, and peace studies. High school classes also use these works, as do church and community adult education workshops.

PhD dissertations have been written utilizing Eisler's models; for example, by Hillary Bendon for the Monterey Institute of International Studies on organizational development, by Alfonso Montuori for the Saybrook Institute on creativity, and by Charles McCaffree for Goddard College on adult education, Sister Ruthmary Powers for the Union Institute on partnership as a model for the educational restructuring movement, and Rona Zollinger for CIIS on environmental education.

Books by other scholars have used Eisler’s new social categories of partnership system and domination system. For example, in 2008 Mary Kirk used it to frame her book, Gender and Information Technology: Moving Beyond Access to Co-Create Global Partnership (IGI Global) and Brian Griffin used it for his book Different Visions of Love: Partnership and Dominator Values in Christian History.

She has also influenced k-12 education. In Tomorrow’s Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education in the 21st Century (Westview Press, 2000), Eisler applied her research directly to what she calls partnership educational process, content, and structure. The new curriculum proposed by Eisler integrates the sciences and humanities, the theoretical and practical, and provides a multicultural perspective on the history, contributions, needs, problems, and aspirations of both halves of humanity: women and men. Tomorrow’s Children has been highly praised by educators, including Stanford Professor Nel Noddings (who wrote the Foreword) and Montessori Foundation president Tim Seldin, for offering young people a more accurate and hopeful picture of what being human can mean and for outlining an education that will equip them to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was recently translated into Chinese and is also published in Urdu by a Muslim NGO for use in Pakistan.

She has spoken at educational conferences worldwide, such as the European Educational House Conference and the 5th International Congress of Education in Argentina, and keynoted educational conferences in the United States, such as the ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) Leadership Conference, the American Montessori Annual National Conference, and the Home Schooling conference.

In 2005, the Montessori Foundation founded the Center for Partnership Education to expand and update Montessori resources using Eisler’s work. It has held annual West Coast conferences on how to integrate Montessori and partnership education.

In the late 1980s, Eisler and her husband and partner, social psychologist and evolutionary theorist David Loye, co-founded the Center for Partnership Studies, dedicated to research and education on the partnership model (www.partnershipway.org).

Eisler’s work inspired the First International Conference on Partnership in the island of Crete, attended by 500 people from 40 countries. It was the catalyst for the development of 22 Centers for Partnership Education in the U.S. and abroad.

In the 1970s she introduced innovative classes at UCLA, Immaculate Heart College, and the Los Angeles Center Legal Program (which she founded). Over the years, her teaching has also included numerous lectures at universities both in the United States and abroad.

She serves on the PhD committees of a number of students working on dissertations using the partnership model.

The Arts, Literature, and Mass Media

Eisler's partnership model has influenced the arts, literature, and the mass media. For example, the ABC television series MacGyver did a two-hour episode based on information about prehistoric partnership-oriented societies described in The Chalice and The Blade.  Scores of books have been influenced by The Chalice and The Blade and many works feature contributions by Eisler. The artist Barbara Schaefer created a multimedia project, “The Song of Memory,” based on The Chalice and The Blade.  The Minnesota Opera New Music/Theater Ensemble commissioned suites inspired by The Chalice and The Blade.  Eisler’s books have also inspired novels and children’s books such as High Kamilan and Moon over Crete. Eisler is a frequent guest on national and international radio shows, particularly NPR and UN Radio, and writes OpEds for both print and internet media.

Spirituality and Religion

Eisler’s cultural transformation theory reveals the underlying dynamics that over thousands of years shaped religion and spirituality.  She shows us how to differentiate between two themes in religion.  One is the voice of the accumulated pain, anger, and fear from living under the dominator model.  The other is the voice of our highest stirrings of what lies at the core of our true humanity. 

Eisler has keynoted major events for Episcopal, Unitarian-Universalist, Catholic, Church of Religious Science, Jewish, and Baha’i communities.  She addressed a major session of the 1993 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago (the only session addressing the major issue of the need for a feminine divine), and her vision of partnership for humanity is incorporated in its Declaration of Principles, which repeatedly uses the term partnership, and specifically affirms commitment to a community of partnership between men and women, rejecting domination of one sex over the other. 

Eisler’s analysis of religion and spirituality was called a “profound service to humanity” by theologian Walter Wink and Episcopalian bishop John Spong wrote that “this world will welcome it.” Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi wrote that “Riane Eisler has done work in our pre- and early history that shows that we have been missing a major part of the big picture.  She has helped rescue a paradigm that had been ‘lost’ and suppressed for so long that its absence stunted our development as a civilization, particularly in the area of religion which has a major bearing on the other key institutions in society.”  Gelek Rinpoche notes that “many speak of her work as a doorway to enable theologians, religious scholars and spiritual practitioners to address the confusion of the overlay of violence and limit placed upon western faiths, allowing for an emphasis on partnership/relationship through peace, compassion and wisdom.”

Eisler grounds the message of religions that humanity is made in the image of the divine in evolution, showing how the development of love and empathy increase as we move up the evolutionary ladder.  She shows that love and creativity are just as grounded in evolution as the commonly emphasized elements of selfishness and violence in fact more so.  Her recognition that the human striving for oneness with what we call the divine can imbue us with the “spiritual courage” to stand up for a just, abundant, and caring way of life has inspired women and men worldwide.