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

Me:

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.

DavidM58:

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 Way.org: "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and government, the change towards flatter organizations should not lead us to believe that hierarchy itself is outdated or only found in dominator systems, and that we should now completely abolish hierarchies of any kind.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. 

Me:

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."

DavidM58:

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."

Me:

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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From her article, "Sex, spirituality and evolution":

"The theory that we have a 'selfish' gene is just that, a theory, founded upon absolutely no evidence. Yet it is propagated as if it is the gospel truth. I don't want to lump every single sociobiologist into the same category, but the kind of sociobiological theories that tend to get popularized present what I call a dominator way of relating as the only human possibility. This is the model of human relations, as I describe in my work, in which males are ranked over females; violence and abuse are systemic and institutionalized; the social structure is hierarchic and authoritarian; and coercion is a major element in sexuality. And it's all supposed to be just human nature.

"These ideas are today also propagated by a group of scientists who call themselves evolutionary psychologists, but who truly don't seem to have a clue about either evolution or psychology. The notion that there is no such thing as altruism is based on the neo-Darwinian theory of kin selection. In other words, if you do something altruistic, you're protecting your genes so you can pass them on. Well, what about the people in Nazi Germany who took in Jews, total strangers, knowing that not only they but their whole families would be killed if they were discovered? Where is the kin selection there? It doesn't make sense.

"Darwin also wrote a book called Descent of Man, in which he very explicitly said that natural selection, random selection, survival of the fittest, simply do not apply as the only factors, and certainly not as the primary factors, when it comes to human evolution. There is also the very important factor that he called 'the moral sense.'"

Speaking of the selfish gene, I want to reiterate this Rifkin video on the empathic civilization:

More from the above Eisler article.

The interviewer brings up the New Age, which posits if we just work on ourselves everything else will take care of itself. Which is very akin to the capitalist notion that if we're just good little self-interested folks the invisible hand will do the same. I like her response, since it's right up my alley of socio-economics as spiritual practice.

"Historically this has never worked, I'm sorry to say. There have always been people who thought, if you just work on yourself, become a better person, and if enough of us do this, the world will be transformed. But what brings change is when systems change, systems that make it possible for us to express ourselves more fully, to give and receive more love, to be less humiliated, less degraded, to not be tortured or killed.

"Our lives today are profoundly different as a result of the democratic revolutions in the West over the past 300 years. We no longer live under sanctioned systems of hereditary or military imposed rule, for example. We are not forced to worship a state religion or work as indentured laborers. These changes were all the result of collective action that brought about systemic change. I think we had better become more historically literate.

"Of course, I am also the first to understand the importance of working on your personal stuff. My whole analysis is that among the most important social movements of our times are those addressing patterns of domination and violence in intimate relations, in parent-child relations, in gender relations....

"So, I do believe there is hope in the personal growth movements. But, if all you do is work on yourself, on your own relationships, then you're not really providing for your children's future, are you? Because your children are living in a world in which patterns of institutional and cultural organization threaten their future."

"I do know that every single progressive movement, all the way from the 1700s to the 1900s and now approaching the year 2000, has been a challenge to entrenched traditions of domination. To a large extent, these movements have also been successful. Empirically, the evidence is there. Social action by a handful of people, often initially highly unpopular people, can in the long run make a huge difference."

I love that video. Rifkin has an amazing ability to cover so much ground and to synthesize it into a very cogent presentation. The animation helps us absorb the info.

And I agree with Eisler's take on the 'selfish gene' theory. In peak oil circles I see it used a lot as an excuse to give up on trying to mount any kind of response beyond survivalism.

On the other hand, if we see both competition and cooperation as natural patterns that exist in all systems, we can imagine the possibility that as resources grow more scarce, it makes more sense to emphasize cooperation over competition, which is what I was getting at here, and in another blog post I've written, not yet published publicly. This will also be a point of discussion in my ITC 2015 paper.

Eisler's definitions of different types of hierarchy also remind me of this old essay by John Heron. A relevant excerpt wherein I see IPS as one such group from the last category:

"There seem to be at least four degrees of such [cultural] unfolding:

  1. Autocratic cultures which define rights in a limited and oppressive way and there are no rights of political participation.

  2. Narrow democratic cultures which practise political participation through representation, but have no or very limited participation of people in decision-making in all other realms, such as research, religion, education, industry, etc.

  3. Wider democratic cultures which practice both political participation and varying degree of wider kinds of participation.

  4. Commons peer-to-peer cultures in a libertarian and abundance-oriented global network with equipotential rights of participation in decision-making of everyone in every field of human endeavour, in relation to nature, culture, the subtle and the spiritual.

These four degrees could be stated in terms of the relations between hierarchy, co-operation and autonomy (deciding for others, deciding with others, deciding by oneself).

  1. Hierarchy defines, controls and constrains co-operation and autonomy.

  2. Hierarchy empowers a measure of co-operation and autonomy in the political sphere only.

  3. Hierarchy empowers a measure of co-operation and autonomy in the political sphere and in varying degrees in other spheres.

  4. The sole role of hierarchy is in its spontaneous emergence in (a) the initiation , and (b) the continuous flowering, of autonomy-in-co-operation, of spirit-in-manifestation, in all spheres of human endeavour.

To elaborate this last point: creative leadership initiatives are taken by those who launch and empower co-operative groups of autonomous people. Charismatic empowering leadership of this kind is fundamental. Once the groups are up and running, charisma devolves and rotates: developmental initiatives are taken spontaneously by different peers at different times, and with respect to varying issues, in order further to enhance the flourishing of autonomy and co-operation within the group, within networks of groups, within the parity of spirit."

An aspect of the Transition Towns movement that really impressed me from the beginning is that there is enough guidance and direction from the Transition Network that help shape individual initiatives to be recognizable as Transition Initiatives, but yet with enough autonomy that they are truly local, grassroots groups that are unique and hopefully developed along lines that make them more meaningful to their local community.

Very much related to the idea expressed by Heron about devolving and rotating leadership: The First of the 12 "suggestions" or patterns or recipe ingredients for local Transition Initiatives (formerly known as the 12 Steps of Transition, but some folks were taking the idea of "steps" too literally as if they were a linear path that had to be followed in order), is...

1. Set up a steering group and design its demise from the outset

"This stage puts a core team in place to drive the project forward during the initial phases. We recommend that you form your Steering Group with the aim of getting through Steps 2 – 5, and agree that once a minimum of 4 sub-groups (see Step 5) are formed, the Steering Group disbands and reforms with a person from each of those groups. This requires a degree of humility, but is very important to put the success of the project above the individuals involved. Ultimately your Steering Group should be made up of 1 representative from each working sub-group."



theurj said:


To elaborate this last point: creative leadership initiatives are taken by those who launch and empower co-operative groups of autonomous people. Charismatic empowering leadership of this kind is fundamental. Once the groups are up and running, charisma devolves and rotates: developmental initiatives are taken spontaneously by different peers at different times, and with respect to varying issues, in order further to enhance the flourishing of autonomy and co-operation within the group, within networks of groups, within the parity of spirit."

Here's a new Eisler interview. Also see her recent article for The Next Systems Project.

I've commented on this before. Given her definition of a dominator hierarchy, where one pole dominates the other--like man over woman, heaven over earth, etc.--it is a regression. A healthy hierarchy always balances those poles. Granted that balance is dynamic based on contingencies, so it's not a static, completely symmetrical and foundational metaphysical state.

In terms of spiral dynamics, which posits an alteration between individual and communal levels, I interpret Eisler's work to see the so-called strictly individual levels as regressions, when the spiral takes a downturn before moving back up to the next level. That is, individual and communal are always in dynamic balance in each level in the healthy hierarchy. Note the word 'hierarchy', as she accepts that aforesaid balanced societies indeed progressively evolve.

Now it may be that temporary regressions back into unbalanced individual-centered societies are needed to provide the impetus for the next progression. I'm not sure about that but that seems to have been the trend up to now. In any event we see this exact dynamic playing out in the current political economy of the US. Capitalism is one of those regressions, focusing on 'enlightened' self interest which results in all the usual dominator-hierarchical imbalances readily evident. We also see the burgeoning neo-Commons, which is a progressive advancement on the balanced predecessor commons-based societies.

I might add that Adam Smith's version of capitalism based on incipient enlightened self-interest was indeed balanced with the communal and an example of a healthy hierarchy. But it regressed when capitalism shifted to an unbalanced individualism that dominated over community and fell into greed and complete lack of regard for the other. Hence the emerging neo-Commons integrates the inside/outside, self/other yet again on the next level of hierarchical development.

This is also congruent with Lakoff's work here.

Human possibilities: the interaction of biology and culture. Abstract:

This article briefly describes the two main strands of a new unified theory about human nature and human possibilities: cultural transformation theory and bio-culturalism. Bio-culturalism combines findings from neuroscience about how our brains develop in interaction with our environments with findings from the study of relational dynamics, a new method of social analysis focusing on what kinds of relations—from intimate to international—a particular culture or subculture supports. Bio-culturalism recognizes that our species has a vast spectrum of genetic capacities, ranging from consciousness, caring, empathy, cooperation, and creativity to insensitivity, cruelty, exploitation, and destructiveness, and proposes that which of these capacities are expressed or inhibited largely hinges on the nature of our cultural environments. Cultural transformation theory looks at the whole span of human cultural evolution from the perspective of the tension between the contrasting configurations of the partnership system and the domination system as two underlying possibilities for structuring beliefs, institutions, and relationships. The article describes the core components of partnership- and domination-oriented societies, provides examples of each, and proposes that our future hinges on accelerating the cultural transformation from domination to partnership in our time of nuclear and biological weapons and the ever more efficient despoliation of nature, when high technology guided by an ethos of domination and conquest could take us to an evolutionary dead end.

Which of course reminds me of this Rifkin video. The first 5 minutes is about empathy. The second 5 minutes is about its evolution concurrent with forms of energy-communications-tech.

Excellent analysis and articulation in 4 short paragraphs! You've captured a lot of subtle distinctions here that are worthy of careful attention.  

It seems to me that a study of Eisler's various writings on dominator hierarchies and cooperative societies (the recent interview and essay, as well as her major work, The Chalice and the Blade) would be very fruitful and "balancing" for anyone with an existing Integral/Spiral Dynamics orientation. 

theurj said:

I've commented on this before. Given her definition of a dominator hierarchy, where one pole dominates the other--like man over woman, heaven over earth, etc.--it is a regression. A healthy hierarchy always balances those poles. Granted that balance is dynamic based on contingencies, so it's not a static, completely symmetrical and foundational metaphysical state.

In terms of spiral dynamics, which posits an alteration between individual and communal levels, I interpret Eisler's work to see the so-called strictly individual levels as regressions, when the spiral takes a downturn before moving back up to the next level. That is, individual and communal are always in dynamic balance in each level in the healthy hierarchy. Note the word 'hierarchy', as she accepts that aforesaid balanced societies indeed progressively evolve.

Now it may be that temporary regressions back into unbalanced individual-centered societies are needed to provide the impetus for the next progression. I'm not sure about that but that seems to have been the trend up to now. In any event we see this exact dynamic playing out in the current political economy of the US. Capitalism is one of those regressions, focusing on 'enlightened' self interest which results in all the usual dominator-hierarchical imbalances readily evident. We also see the burgeoning neo-Commons, which is a progressive advancement on the balanced predecessor commons-based societies.

I might add that Adam Smith's version of capitalism based on incipient enlightened self-interest was indeed balanced with the communal and an example of a healthy hierarchy. But it regressed when capitalism shifted to an unbalanced individualism that dominated over community and fell into greed and complete lack of regard for the other. Hence the emerging neo-Commons integrates the inside/outside, self/other yet again on the next level of hierarchical development.

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