Riane Eisler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Riane Eisler
Riane Eisler.png
Other namesRiane Tennenhaus Eisler
Alma materUniversity of California
Known forBooks, including The Chalice and the Blade (1988), The Real Wealth of Nations (2008), Nurturing Our Humanity (2019)
Spouse(s)David Elliot Loye
  • 1992 Shaler Adams Foundation Award[1]
  • 1996 ERA Education Award
  • 2009 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award
  • 2013 International Women's Leadership Pioneer Award[2]
  • 2018 Safe Ireland Leadership Award
Websitewww.rianeeisler.com, www.centerforpartnership.org

Riane Tennenhaus Eisler (born 22 July 1931) is a cultural historian, systems scientist, educator, attorney, speaker, and author whose work on cultural transformation has inspired scholars and social activists. Her research has had an effect in many fields, including history, literature, philosophy, art, economics, psychology, sociology, education, human rights, organizational development, political science, and healthcare.

Early life[edit]

Eisler was born in Vienna, fled from the Nazis with her parents to Cuba as a small child, and later emigrated to the United States. She obtained degrees in sociology and law from UCLA.


Eisler taught pioneering classes on women and the law at UCLA; and has taught in the graduate Transformative Leadership Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies and the Anthropology Department at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, as well as online through the Center for Partnership Studies and the Omega Institute. She is editor-in-chief of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies at the University of Minnesota and President of the Center for Partnership Studies, dedicated to research and education on the partnership model introduced by Eisler's research. She is an honorary member of the World Future Council and the Club of Rome, as well as affiliated with numerous other organizations, from the IEEE to the Social Ventures Network and the World Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Partnership and domination models[edit]

Eisler proposes that new social paradigms are needed that transcend the limitations of conventional social categories such as religious vs. secular, right vs. left, capitalist vs. communist, East vs. West, and pre-industrial vs. industrial or post-industrial. She notes that societies in all these categories have been repressive and violent, and that none answer the question of what kinds of institutions and beliefs support more equitable and peaceful relations. In addressing this question, Eisler's multidisciplinary, cross-cultural research provides a new analytical tool for understanding and improving social systems: the biocultural partnership-domination lens. The identification of the partnership system and the domination system as two underlying social configurations draws from a database that includes key social features that are currently ignored or marginalized, such as the social construction of human/nature connections, parent/child relations, gender roles and relations, and the way we assess the value of the work of caring for people and nature.

Domination system[edit]

Eisler introduced the term domination system to describe a system of top-down rankings ultimately backed up by fear or force - man over man, man over woman, race over race, religion over religion, and man over nature. The configuration of the domination system has four mutually supporting core components: Top-down control in families, economies and states, and all institutions in between; Rigid male dominance—and with this, the devaluation by both men and women of anything stereotypically considered "feminine," including care and caregiving; The acceptance, even idealization, of abuse and violence as a means of imposing one's will on others; A system of beliefs that presents relations of dominating or being dominated as inevitable and desirable. Examples of societies that orient closely to the domination system include Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Fundamentalist Iran, the Taliban, and earlier cultures where chronic violence and despotic rule were the norm.[3]

Partnership system[edit]

By contrast, the configuration of the partnership system consists of the following four mutually supporting core components: A more democratic and egalitarian structure in the family, economy, and state or tribe; equal partnership between women and men, and with this a high valuing in women and men, as well as in social and economic policy, of traits and activities stereotypically considered feminine, such as care and caregiving; a low degree of abuse and violence, because they are not needed to maintain rigid rankings of domination; A system of beliefs that presents relations of partnership and mutual respect as normal and desirable.

Examples of partnership-oriented societies include the Teduray, a tribal society studied by the University of California anthropologist Stuart Schlegel;[4] agrarian societies such as the Minangkabau, studied by the University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday;[5] and technologically advanced ones like Sweden, Norway, and Finland, where there is a more democratic and egalitarian structure in the family, economy, and the state, more equal partnership between men and women (for example, women are 40-50 percent of national legislators), and more caring social policies such as universal health care, paid parental leave, and high quality early childhood education, as well as the rejection of violence in both intimate and international relations.[6]

Partnership/domination continuum[edit]

In comparing partnership and domination systems, in Nurturing Our Humanity Eisler and co-author Douglas Fry draw from both social and biological science, including findings from neuroscience, to show how growing up in partnership or domination oriented cultures or subcultures directly affects how children’s brains develop, and hence how people think, feel, and act, including how they vote. The book incorporates Fry's extensive research on foraging societies to debunk popular theories claiming that we are prisoners of evolutionary imperatives that drive us to war, rape, and other cruelties; the evidence is that humans lived as foragers for millennia in groups that, as Fry found, were "the original partnership societies". In earlier works such as The Chalice and the Blade and Sacred Pleasure, Eisler analyzes the androcracy (governance of social organization dominated by males) of Indo-European and other societies, versus greater orientation to the partnership system (as distinct from matriarchy) for the social organization of Neolithic Europe and the later Minoan civilization that flourished in prehistoric Bronze Age Crete.

To support the idea that neither men nor women dominated one another, Eisler cited archeological evidence from southeast Europe, especially Crete, drawing from the research of archaeologists Marija Gimbutas, James Mellaart, Nikolaos Platon, Vere Gordon Childe, and Nanno Marinatos.

Eisler's work has allowed other scholars to apply the partnership/domination and cultural transformation conceptual frameworks to fields ranging from politics and economics to religion, business, and education.[7]

No society orients completely to a domination system or a partnership system. It is always a matter of degree in what Eisler calls a partnership-domination continuum. But with these configurations in mind, much that otherwise seems random and disconnected begins to fall into place – including how economic systems have been developed, as Eisler documents in The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics , as well as in many articles and book chapters, including "Economics as If Caring Matters" in Challenge.


Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future by Riane Eisler and Douglas Fry combines Eisler's partnership-domination social scale with extensive evidence from neuroscience and other fields. It shows that, contrary to popular beliefs about "selfish genes" driving human behavior, how people think and feel is heavily influenced by whether they grow up in partnership or domination oriented environments. It also documents that in reality humans in the course of evolution developed a propensity for empathy, caring, and creativity, which is, however, inhibited in domination systems. It further points to interventions that can accelerate the contemporary movement toward partnership and prevent further regressions to domination.

Riane's earlier books include her international bestseller The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future, which was hailed by anthropologist Ashley Montagu as "the most important book since Darwin's Origin of Species". The book is now in its 57th US printing and has been translated into 26 languages, including most European languages and Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Korean, Hebrew, Urdu, Japanese, and Arabic.

Her 2007 book, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, proposes a new approach to economics that gives visibility and value to the essential human work of caring for people and the planet. It has been hailed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as "a template for the better world we have been so urgently seeking," by Peter Senge as "desperately needed," and by Gloria Steinem as "revolutionary."

In 2014, Eisler co-authored Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Health Care with University of Minnesota professor Teddie Potter. It provides healthcare professionals with the tools to re-examine current healthcare systems and build a more caring, sustainable system. The book was the winner of the 2015 Capstone International Book Award and a 2014 American Journal of Nursing Book Award.

Eisler's other books include the award-winning The Power of Partnership and Tomorrow's Children, as well as Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body – New Paths to Power and Love, an exploration of the origins of human violence, and Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life, which statistically documents the key role of the status of women in a nation's general quality of life.


In 2011, Tiroir A Films (TAF) based their documentary, Mother, Caring for 7 Billion on the theories of Riane Eisler, featuring her as well. In 2018, filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newson (currently First Partner of California) also featured Eisler in her 2019 film The Great American Lie.


Riane Eisler keynotes conferences worldwide, and is a consultant to business and government on applications of the partnership model introduced in her work. International venues have included the United Nations General Assembly, as well as Germany at the invitation of Prof. Rita Süssmuth, President of the Bundestag (the German Parliament) and Daniel Goeudevert (Chair of Volkswagen International); Colombia, invited by the Mayor of Bogota; and the Czech Republic, invited by Václav Havel (President of the Czech Republic). She has spoken at important national venues, including the Congressional Briefing on "The Economic Return from Investing in Care Work and Early Childhood Education"[8] and the United States State Department.[9]

Riane Eisler is a founding member of the General Evolution Research Group (GERG), a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and World Business Academy, an honorary member of the Club of Rome,[10] and an honorary Councilor of the World Future Council in Europe. She is co-founder of the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV). She is the president of the Center for Partnership Studies, dedicated to research and education. In 2003 she was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto, an initiative of the Center for Partnership Studies dedicated to research and education,[11] and co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies (IJPS).

She is the author of over 300 essays and articles in publications ranging from Behavioral Science, Futures, Political Psychology, and The UNESCO Courier to Brain and Mind, Yes!, the Human Rights Quarterly, The International Journal of Women's Studies, and the World Encyclopedia of Peace. Eisler was one of the founders of the Women's Rights Law Reporter, the first legal periodical to focus exclusively on women's rights.


Riane Eisler has influenced many fields. For example, she inspired Professor Min Jiayin of the Institute of Philosophy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to publish and edit The Chalice and the Blade in Chinese Culture (published in 1995 by China Social Sciences Publishing House). Min Jiayin's book tested Eisler's cultural transformation theory in Chinese culture, and found that there was also a shift from partnership to domination in Asian prehistory. In her 2008 book, Gender and Information Technology: Moving Beyond Access to Co-Create Global Partnership, Mary Kirk uses Eisler's cultural transformation theory to offer an interdisciplinary, social systems perspective on issues of access to technology.[12] Gender and Information Technology explores how shifting from dominator towards partnership systems, as reflected in four primary social institutions (communication, media, education, and business), might help us move beyond the simplistic notion of access to co-create a real digital revolution worldwide.[12] Eisler inspired Professor Antonella Riem and a group of scholars based at the University of Udine, the Partnership Studies Group (PSG), to develop significant multi- and inter-disciplinary research which investigates the presence and meaning of partnership/dominator configurations within World Literatures in English, Language, Education and Arts.


Eisler has received many honors, including the Humanist Pioneer Award and the first Alice Paul ERA award.[13] In 2018 she was awarded the inaugural Safe Ireland Leadership Award (SÍLA), in honor for her visionary leadership in gender equality. She received the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Distinguished Peace Leadership Award for "demonstrating courageous leadership in the cause of peace".[14] She was the only woman selected for inclusion in Macrohistory and Macrohistorians for her work as a cultural historian and evolutionary theorist.[15]

Center for Partnership Studies[edit]

The Center for Partnership Studies (CPS), located in Carmel, California, was established in 1987 for the purpose of researching, developing, and disseminating education on the partnership model as developed by Riane Eisler.[citation needed]

Caring Economy Campaign[edit]

The Caring Economy Campaign is a project of the Center for Partnership studies that is focused on building a partnership system with clear measures of the economic benefits of the work of caring for people and nature. To that end, the Caring Economy Campaign has developed Social Wealth Economic Indicators (SWEIs)[16] to help guide policy-makers in developing an economic system that takes into account unpaid or underpaid labor, overall health and wellbeing, and the general welfare of the population.[17]

SAIV: The Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence[edit]

The mission of The Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV) is to stop intimate violence — the training ground for the violence of war, terrorism, political repression, and crime. SAIV was founded by Riane Eisler with Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams and is a project of the Center for Partnership Studies, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization recognized as a non-governmental organization by the United Nations.

Partial bibliography[edit]

  • Dissolution: NoFault Divorce, Marriage, and the Future of Women. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1977.
  • The Equal Rights Handbook: What ERA means for your life, your rights, and your future. New York: Avon, 1979.
  • The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future. New York: Harper & Row, 1989. ISBN 0-06-250289-1
  • Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body. San Francisco: Harper, 1996. ISBN 0-06-250283-2
  • The Partnership Way: New Tools for Living and Learning, with David Loye, Holistic Education, 1998 ISBN 0-9627232-9-0
  • Tomorrow's Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education in the 21st Century (2000)
  • The Power of Partnership: Seven Relationships that will Change Your Life (2002)
  • Educating for a Culture of Peace (2004)
  • The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2007. ISBN 978-1-57675-388-0
  • Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future, co-authored with Douglas Fry, New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. ISBN 9780190935726


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-19. Retrieved 2014-04-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-19. Retrieved 2014-04-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Eisler, Riane (1988-09-21). The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (First ed.). New York, NY: HarperOne. ISBN 9780062502896.
  4. ^ Schlegel, S. (1988). Wisdom From A Rainforest. University of Georgia Press.
  5. ^ Sanda, P.R. (2002). Women at the Center. Cornell University Press.
  6. ^ Eisler, Riane (2007). Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. Berrett-Koehler.
  7. ^ Eisler, Raine (June 4, 2015). "Human Possibilities: The Interaction of Biology and Culture". Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies. University of Minnesota.
  8. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHPgcDBNTf4
  9. ^ http://pubs.lib.umn.edu/ijps/
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-17. Retrieved 2014-04-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  12. ^ a b Kirk, Mary. (2008). Gender and Information Technology: Moving Beyond Access to Co-Create Global Partnership. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. ISBN 978-1-59904-786-7
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-29. Retrieved 2014-04-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Distinguished Peace Leadership Award". Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Archived from the original on 1 November 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
  15. ^ http://www.metafuture.org/Books/MacrohistoryandMacrohistorians.htm
  16. ^ https://centerforpartnership.org/programs/caring-economy/indicators/ Social Wealth Economic Indicators
  17. ^ http://caringeconomy.org/about/

External links[edit]