P2P Hierarchy Theory: Riane Eisler’s partnership way

A republication from February 2006: Riane Eisler’s Hierarchy of Actualisation

The excerpt is from Russ Volckman’s excellent Integral Leadership newsletter. See below an insert about the importance of Eisler’s previous book about the origins of hierarchy.

“Q: Would you characterize the partnership model?

A: Well, let’s look at the Nordic Nations. First of all, rather than having hierarchies of domination–these rigid rankings–they do have hierarchies. They have more of what I call hierarchies of actualization. I’ll get back to that because it’s key to my model for business and economics. But the first thing that you see is that they have much greater political and economic democracy. They don’t have these huge gaps betweens haves and have-nots. They have a generally high standard of living for everyone. Second, rather than ranking of the male half of humanity over the female half, they have much more equal partnership between women and men. With this–and this is critical–you find that as the status of women rises, so does the status of those traits and activities stereotypically considered feminine: caring, care-giving, non-violence. So what do you see? You see that the Nordic nations were pioneers in what my friend from Finland, Hilkka Pietila, calls a caring society. We call it a welfare state, but it’s very different from the U.S. welfare system. They have universal health care, childcare allowances, elder care and paid parental leave. In other words, in cultures that orient to the partnership model, the care giving that is stereotypically associated with women can become a fiscal priority of the nation. This is very, very good for the economic health of the nation. Finland, for example, in both 2003 and 2004 ranked ahead of the much wealthier, much more powerful United States in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness ratings. And of course, these nations are always on the top in the U.N. Human Development Reports. These nations also pioneered the first peace studies courses. They pioneered laws against physical punishment of children in families. They pioneered a strong men’s movement to disentangle male identity from violence. They also pioneered what we today call industrial democracy, teamwork in factories, rather than turning human beings into mere cogs in the industrial machine. Ecologically sound manufacturing, such as the Natural Step, was also pioneered by them. Now, none of this is random or coincidental. It’s part of the cultural configuration characteristic of the partnership rather than domination model. It is a configuration that factors both what happens to the female half of humanity and also what happens in people’s day-to-day lives…

2. The Caring Economy model

Q: Ultimately, I want to get to the question of leadership, but I think there is still more foundation to be laid. For example, you brought up the subject of economics. In a new book that’s coming out called Enlightened Power yours is the first chapter: The Economics of the Enlightened Use of Power. Can you lay out for us a little bit of the economic argument in support of a partnership approach?

A: It is something I’m very deeply involved in. I am actually working on a new book on partnership economics: a caring economy. We’ve been told for a long time, for example in terms of organizational structure, that hierarchies of domination are needed for success. In these hierarchies of rigid top down rankings, accountability, respect, and benefit flow mostly from the bottom up. Enron, for example, certainly didn’t have much accountability or respect from the top down. Most of the benefits accrued to the people on top. That’s the classic domination model. And Enron shows that in the long term it’s hardly successful. I don’t mean to pick on Enron. But these hierarchies of domination, where there is so little accountability or respect by those on top, are rife with horrible corruption and cause great suffering and loss. These companies eventually went bankrupt or changed their names. These were disasters for many people: stockholders, employees and their pension plans. What we’re discovering today–and it’s all over the management literature–is that hierarchies of actualization are much more efficient, much more effective. Now what is a hierarchy of actualization? Well, if we look at the way power is conceptualized, it isn’t conceptualized so much as power over, power to dominate or to destroy, but power to empower oneself and others to be the best we can be. It is also power with. So a term like teamwork is really part of the shift to partnership where there’s a different way of looking at power. In a hierarchy of actualization, you have respect, benefit and accountability flowing both ways. But you also have something else that is very important: you have much better information flow. This is very important for companies to make effective business decisions. In partnership structures, not only do you have teamwork where people can really have input and use their brains and their creativity, but you also have the possibility for much more creativity. When people are in a hierarchy of domination, they know very well that they better conform. It’s very dangerous to disobey orders or to question. Particularly in a post-industrial economy where we are told we need a flexible workforce, a creative workforce, a workforce that can solve problems, the hierarchy of domination just does not work. The structure inhibits creativity and flexibility. There is something else really basic that takes us back to what I was talking about when I spoke of the Nordic Nations. There are many studies now showing that when people feel cared for–which is part of the hierarchy of actualization–people perform much better. There are empirical studies showing this. So all in all, what we’re finding out is that the partnership model is not only more conducive to higher stages of human development, but it actually is much move conducive to economic well-being.”

3. The historical origins of hierarchy

In the book that launched Riane Eisler’s fame, The Chalice and the Blade, where she outlines the difference in dominator and partnership societies, she formulates the following hypothesis, based largely on the research of M. Gimbutas. The story goes more or less like this: for more than 100,000 hears of human history, humans lived in egalitarian bands. But it is a mistake to think that the rise of agriculture and domestication is itself responsible for hierarchical warrior societies. That agriculture gave rise to warfaring empires is the result of an ‘exogenous’ import: that of the masculine-dominated, warrior societies of pastoral nomads, born in the Eurasian steppes, who in fact took over the agricultural kingdoms, and developed a hybrid civilization. Before these invasions the evidence points to feminine-dominated societies, not geared to war. She dates these developments to about 4400 BC.

Riane’s website is at www.partnershipway.org.

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