Riane Eisler

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Riane Tennenhaus Eisler
Born Vienna, Austria
Other names Riane Eisler
Alma mater University of California
Known for The Chalice and the Blade (1988)
Notable awards
  • 1992 Shaler Adams Foundation Award[1]
  • 1996 ERA Education Award
  • 2009 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award
  • 2013 International Women's Leadership Pioneer Award[2]
Spouse David Loye

Riane Tennenhaus Eisler (born July 22, 1931) is a scholar, writer, feminist, and social activist. She was born in Vienna, but her family fled from the Nazis to Cuba when she was a child; she later immigrated to the United States.[3] She has degrees in sociology and law from the University of California. She is the author of many popular books and articles, and president of the Center for Partnership Studies. Eisler has been described as a cultural historian, an evolutionary theorist, and a second-wave feminist.[3][4]

Partnership and domination models[edit]

Overall, Eisler's work is heavily inluenced by the new age spiritual movement. As a result, she committed the basic methodological misstep of using modern day values to analyze ancient societies. Her findings all seem to favor or promote new age philosophy (pacifism, worshipping of nature or feminism) and are often invalidated by actual facts (or only supported by studies dismissed by the mainstream scientific community, such as Marija Gimbutas' later works). She proposes that new conceptual social categories and paradigms are needed which transcend conventional ones such as sacred vs. secular, right vs. left, capitalist vs. communist, Eastern vs. Western, and industrial vs. pre- or post- industrial which she notes do not describe the whole of a society's beliefs and institutions. She claims that societies in all these categories have been repressive and violent, which in itself is highly debatable, and that a road map to a more equitable and less violent social structure requires a new frame of analysis that describes social features that are ignored or marginalized in conventional analyses, particularly the social construction of the foundational human- nature, parent-child and gender relations.[5]

To permit viewing or thinking distinctions which to her are relevant, if not fundamental, between folks and cultures Eisler introduces the notions of dominator and partnership societies.

Dominator Culture[edit]

She coined the term dominator culture to describe a system of dominance hierarchy ultimately backed up by fear or force. One of the core components of this system of authoritarian rule in both the family and the state is the subordination of women — whether in Nazi Germany, Khomeini's Iran, or in earlier cultures where chronic violence and despotic rule were the norm. She analyzes the androcracy (governance of social organization dominated by males) of Indo-European and other societies, versus what she proposes was a partnership model (as distinct from matriarchy) for the social organization of Neolithic Europe and the later Minoan civilization that flourished in prehistoric Neolithic Crete[6] Archaelogical evidence invalidates these assumptions. First, the very existence of a unified Neolithic European culuture is a myth created by archaeogist Marija Gimbutas. Furthermore, nothing indicates that the feminine figurines on which Gimbutas based her conclusions actually represented godesses.[7]

She draws cross cultural examples of domination oriented cultures and their characteristic configuration in comparison to partnership oriented cultures. The configuration of the domination system has four mutually supporting core components: Top-down control in both families and states or tribes; 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 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.

Partnership Society[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 both the family 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.[8]

To "support" the idea that neither men nor women dominated one another, Eisler cites archeological "evidence" from southeast Europe, especially Crete, drawing much from the (widely criticized and academically rejected) research of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, James Mellaart, Nikolaos Platon, and Vere Gordon Childe. Once again, nothing indicates the existence of a homogenous Neolithic Europe or that the feminine figurines on which Gimbutas based her conclusions actually represented godesses.[7] Her hypothesis about prehistory also relies strongly on sources such as the Gnostic Gospels and on the history portrayed by the Ancient Greek poet Hesiod. To support her thesis for contemporary societies, she draws heavily from cross-cultural studies, such as Douglas P. Fry's work on foraging cultures.[9] She and others using her partnership/domination conceptual framework have applied her analysis to fields ranging from politics and economics to religion, business, and education.

Partnership/Domination Continuum[edit]

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.[8]


Her most recent book, Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Health Care (2014), co-authored with Teddie M. Potter, won the prestigious American Journal of Nursing Award in January 2015. The book offers insight for care professionals to build a more effective healthcare system.[10]

Eisler's international bestseller The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future (Harper Collins San Francisco, 1987) was hailed by anthropologist Ashley Montagu as "the most important book since Darwin's Origin of Species (sic), but its conclusions are rejected by most scholars for its ideological and biased use of misinterpreted archeological "evidences" (mostly those of pseudoarchaelogical work "The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974)", the scientific downfall of formerly respected archaeologist Marija Gimbutas). Coincidentally, Montagu,[11][better source needed] in another hyperbolic statement, compared Marija Gimbutas work to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone (sic). Eisler's book is a further development of the thesis advanced by Gimbutas and the archaeologist James Mellaart about a supposed unitary matrilineal and Goddess-worshipping culture that was claimed to be widespread throughout Neolithic Europe, in the Balkans, Anatolia, Crete, Malta, and the northeastern Mediterranean. According to these writers, this idyllic agricultural society was put to the torch by invading Indo-European speakers armed with superior military technologies. This narrative dates back to the nineteenth century. It is, in fact, a version of the Aryan superman myth which was the founding legend of Nazi Germany. According to Eisler, the response of the egalitarians to the collapse of their utopian societies by patriarchal conquerors was to organize an underground resistance. This feminist underground kept the tradition of the sacred feminine alive until it was able once more to re-emerge. But they left, scattered through art and culture, a sequence of coded and hidden clues for moderns to ferret out their true meanings. Actually, archaelogical evidence invalidates these assumptions. First, the very existence of a unified Neolithic European culuture is a myth created by archaeogist Marija Gimbutas. Furthermore, nothing indicates that the feminine figurines on which Gimbutas based her conclusions actually represented godesses.[7] However, the book's highly implausible statements, glaring flaws and weaknesses made its success.[12] Eisler's political views were indeed very popular at the time of publication and the book has sold 500,000 copies.[13] It has been translated into at least 26 languages,[14] including most European languages and Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Korean, Hebrew, Japanese, and Arabic.[15]

Her 2008 book, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, proposes a new approach to economics that gives visibility and value to what she thinks is the most essential human work: the work of caring for people and the planet. Despite once again venturing far outside her field of expertise (i.e. law and sociology) and allowing her political views to undermine her work's scientific validity, it has been hailed by various (non-economists) supporters, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “a template for the better world we have been so urgently seeking,” Peter Senge as “desperately needed,” and by Gloria Steinem (journalist, spokeswoman for the feminist movement) as “revolutionary.”[16]

In 2014, Eisler co-authored Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Health Care with Teddie Potter which provides healthcare professionals with the tools to re-examine current healthcare systems and build a more caring, sustainable system.[17]

Eisler's other books include the award-winning The Power of Partnership[18] and Tomorrow’s Children,[19] as well as Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body – New Paths to Power and Love,[20] an exploration of the origins of human violence, and Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life,[21] 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.[22]


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 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). In 2013, Eisler was invited to speak during a Congressional Briefing on "The Economic Return from Investing in Care Work and Early Childhood Education"[23] and to speak for the United States State Department.[24]

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, a member of the Club of Rome,[25] and a counselor of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality[26] along with the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other spiritual leaders. She is also 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.[27]

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. She is also an active Global Council Member at the International Museum of Women.[28] She is a member of the World Future Council.


Riane Eisler inspired Professor Min Jiayin of the Institute of Philosophy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to edit The Chalice and the Blade in Chinese Culture (published in 1995 by China Social Sciences Publishing House).[29] 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.[30] 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.[30]

Riane Eisler inspired Professor Antonella Riem and a group of scholars based at the University of Udine, 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. For more details see the Partnership Studies Group (PSG) official webpage: http://all.uniud.it/?page_id=195


Dr. Eisler has received many honors, including the Humanist Pioneer Award and the first Alice Paul ERA award.[31] She received the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Distinguished Peace Leadership Award for "demonstrating courageous leadership in the cause of peace".[32] She was the only woman selected for inclusion in Macrohistory and Macrohistorians for her work as a cultural historian and evolutionary theorist.[33] Dr. Eisler also serves on the Advisory Council of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Center for Partnership Studies[edit]

The Center for Partnership Studies (CPS), located in Pacific Grove, CA., was established in 1987 for the purpose of researching, developing, and disseminating education on the partnership model as developed by Riane Eisler.

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. To that end, the Caring Economy Campaign has developed Social Wealth Economic Indicators (SWEIs) 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.[34]

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.


  • 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


  1. ^ http://www.partnershipway.org/news-media-room/press-releases-and-press-kits/press-kit#awards-and-accolades
  2. ^ http://events-womensleadership.com/award-winners/
  3. ^ a b http://www.partnershipway.org/about-cps/cps-team/founders
  4. ^ Young, K. and P. Nathenson. Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess Ideology and the Fall of Man. Montreal and Kingston: Queens-McGill University Press, 2010. 25. Print.
  5. ^ http://www.marykirk.net/
  6. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Chalice-Blade-Our-History-Future/dp/0062502891/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401418974&sr=1-1&keywords=the+chalice+and+the+blade
  7. ^ a b c http://articles.latimes.com/1989-06-11/magazine/tm-2975_1_marija-gimbutas-gods-of-old-europe-indo-european/3
  8. ^ a b Eisler, Riane; Teddie Potter (2014). Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Health Care. Sigma Theta Tau International. 
  9. ^ Fry, Douglas P. (2013). War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  10. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Transforming-Interprofessional-Partnerships-Framework-Partnership-Based-ebook/dp/B00HZPV54I/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392265441&sr=1-5&keywords=riane+eisler
  11. ^ Marija Gimbutas#Assessment
  12. ^ http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Riane_Eisler
  13. ^ http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chalice-and-the-blade-riane-eisler/1111730460
  14. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Chalice-Blade-Our-History-Future/dp/0062502891
  15. ^ http://www.rianeeisler.com/chalice.htm
  16. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Real-Wealth-Nations-Economics-Hardcover/dp/1576756297/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398740591&sr=1-1&keywords=the+real+wealth+of+nations
  17. ^ Bookseller's catalog page.
  18. ^ http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Partnership-Relationships-Change/dp/1577314085/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398740440&sr=8-1&keywords=the+power+of+partnership
  19. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Tomorrows-Children-Blueprint-Partnership-Education/dp/0813365694/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1398740484&sr=8-4&keywords=tomorrow%27s+children
  20. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Pleasure-Politics-Body--New-Paths/dp/0062502832/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398740530&sr=1-1&keywords=sacred+pleasure
  21. ^ http://www.partnershipway.org/Economics-Politics/economics-public-policy/excerpts-from-women-men-and-the-global-quality-of-life
  22. ^ http://www.motherthefilm.com/#!synopsis-0/cfaz
  23. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHPgcDBNTf4
  24. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovDiEV_rJC0
  25. ^ http://www.clubofrome.org/?p=5916
  26. ^ http://www.globalspirit.org/councils.html
  27. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  28. ^ International Museum of Women Global Council, http://imow.org/about/globalcouncil/index
  29. ^ http://www.amazon.com/The-chalice-blade-Chinese-culture/dp/7500417411
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ http://americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2011-10-film-review-mother-caring-for-7-billion
  32. ^ "Distinguished Peace Leadership Award". Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Retrieved 24 December 2012. 
  33. ^ http://www.metafuture.org/Books/MacrohistoryandMacrohistorians.htm
  34. ^ http://caringeconomy.org/about/

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