Systems Scientist, Cultural Historian, Attorney, Social Activist, Author
Psychologist, Evolutionary Systems Scientist, Author
Cole Hons: Greetings fellow Homo sapiens and welcome to The Symbiotic Podcast. We've got a very special two-part episode for you this time around. That's a bit of a departure from anything we've done before. As you may know, we're currently in our second season, which we're devoting to COVID-19 research stories. What's different about this episode is that rather than focusing on the global health crisis of the pandemic itself, we look more broadly at the larger meta-crisis that is being exacerbated by COVID-19. And here I'm talking about the economic crisis, the inequality crisis, the environmental crisis, and the democracy crisis. All of these global pain points were there before 2020, but as I'm sure you're all aware the COVID-19 pandemic has just brought all these factors into excruciatingly sharp focus.
For the conversation I'm about to share, we brought in two remarkable elder systems scientists who have spent decades deeply researching how and why societies evolve and devolve over time. For the first time on The Symbiotic Podcast, our guests have no formal ties to Penn State whatsoever. Riane Eisler is a cultural historian system, scientist educator, attorney, speaker, and author. She was born in Vienna, Austria in 1931 and fled the wrath of the Nazis as a child refugee with her parents to start life over in Cuba. Riane's work on cultural transformation has inspired scholars and social activists worldwide. Her research integrates history, literature, philosophy, art, economics, psychology, sociology, education, human rights, organizational development, political science, and healthcare.
She is best known for The Chalice & The Blade: Our History, Our Future, which first introduced her cultural transformation theory in 1987. But Riane has also authored books about caring economics, equal rights for women, children's issues and nursing and healthcare, as well as human sexuality and relationships. Her latest book with peace educator David Frye, is 2019's Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future. Additionally, Riane has spearheaded the creation of many social change efforts as the founder of The Center for Partnership Studies, The Caring Economy Campaign, and The Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence. And as an academic, she's the founder and editor and chief of The Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies.
David Lloyd is an author, psychologist, and evolutionary system scientist born in Palo Alto, California in 1925. A World War II veteran, David was a writer in the Navy, and he's co-founder of the General Evolution Research Group and International Confederation of Concerned Scientists who banded together in the face of the Cold War to see if they could science to address the global state of potential mutual annihilation. In the 1970s, at the UCLA school of medicine, David developed the groundwork for the study on television violence and the impact of mass entertainment on evolution and human survival. He published his first book in 1971, the award-winning Healing of a Nation, which addressed what he called the sickness of racism in America. David's most recent work is 2018 is Rediscovering Darwin: The Rest of Darwin's Theory and Why We Need It Today.
It's his 16th book and his fifth to focus on Darwin. He contends that popular culture and the global scientific community has completely misinterpreted the real contributions of Charles Darwin. And he has made it his life's mission to remedy that error. In addition to being remarkably insightful and passionately dedicated scholars, Riane and David also happened to be married partners and have been so for more than 40 years, inspiring one another to dig deeper and do more in service to the evolution of global society. For a very special conversation with them recorded over zoom on Monday, June 8th, 2020, we attempted to approach the pandemic from a broader, more systemic lens in the hope that perhaps our current medic crisis might function to ultimately push us forward towards greater cooperation and conscious evolution. And so, one thing I want to ask you, David, is what do you think are the biggest misconceptions in the popular mind about Darwin?
David Loye: To me, the single most powerful quote of all, and I'll explain why it was so powerful out of Darwin, this is out of Darwin, I call it his all-purpose quote from Darwin, "Important as the struggle for existence has been and even still is, yet as far as the highest part of our nature is concerned, there are other agencies more important. For the moral qualities" — and 92 times he's writing about moral things & "For the moral qualities are advanced, either directly or indirectly, much more through the effects of habit, by our reasoning powers, by instruction, by religion," — This is Darwin! — "than through natural selection." And you get a sense of all that we lost when they failed to pick up on Darwin. This is not some obscure little thing tucked away in the middle of a thing about sexual survival or something like that. It's in The Descent of Man on the next to the last page of the section quite clearly labeled "General Summary and Conclusions".
Cole: Everybody generally thinks of Darwin as being somebody who talked about random selection, right? I hear that a lot in the popular conception of Darwin that it's random selection. Everything's randomly, we'll try this out, we'll try that out, and nature just randomly tries things until something works, and the thing that works is replicated, and it becomes the new normal, right? And this idea of random is often associated with him, but a big part of what you're saying with the self-organizing aspect and with consciousness and the mind and being directed on purpose flies in the face of this idea of something that's random, particularly as it applies to cultural evolution, not just biological, but cultural and bio-cultural evolution, which is something I've read about in Riane's work.
So I just want to read this quote back to you, that's from your book where you quote Darwin saying, "The birth both of the species and the individual are equally parts of that grand sequence of events that our minds refused to accept as the result of blind chance. The understanding revolts at such a conclusion." And there's Darwin completely refuting this idea of everything being blind chance, right?
David: Exactly! It's a great synthesis for the new Darwinian theory that holds us now. It was actually in the early '30s, 1930, Julian Huxley, the great biologist of his time, and others pulled it together and they went for this idea of random variation. They had to make it random variation because if they hinted that there was any avenue for anything else other than just happenstance, they opened the way for the cursed religion to get back into the picture. You give them an inch, they'll say "God did it!" and so then all our work is for nothing. But here is Darwin saying directly, "It boggles the mind to think of the idea of blind chance; it just doesn't work." And now there are all kinds, from many different experts, many different schools and spawn, confirming: no! It's not a random, part of it, a large part of it is, you can say it's blind chance, it's now come around [inaudible] get together and do something, but an awful lot of it is there are other factors involved that point out that it's not random, that we have to have that leeway to move ahead.
Cole: Well, I know that you're both aware of Barbara Marx Hubbard, I imagine? I know I've seen her name come up in some of your work, and I took a couple of classes with Barbara Marx Hubbard before she passed on about a year or two ago. I was studying conscious evolution, which is really this whole idea that we consciously decide how we're going to evolve because we as human beings have reached this state where we can map the genome and play with nature and play with life itself and annihilate the planet — we have that power! We have all this awesome power, and so with that power comes responsibility, and it comes with these questions of how are we going to use that power.
And also in studying with Barbara Marx Hubbard, she had this way of drawing a spiral with this golden line that went in through the middle of the spiral, and she showed how, again and again, through the evolutionary record, life goes through these crisis points where it can either die off and go extinct, or it can evolve to a higher level of greater complexity and greater consciousness. And that there's this through-line over the timescale in which we get more and more conscious and more and more complex and more and more evolved.
And that certainly suggests some sort of an intelligent, coherent principle that, as you say, does not appear random at all, but how it's kind of a strange attractor (I know you write about the different attractors, strange attractor, et cetera) that things cohere around different conscious intentions. And that certainly seems to be where we are right now as human beings. We need to use our conscious minds, come together and, to segue into where we're going with Riane's work, in partnership with one another, and decide how we can partner up with our conscious minds, and consciously choose how we wish to evolve life on this planet and take the responsibility that is sort of our birthright as conscious, self-reflective, thinking animals (if you want to call us animals), you know, thinking beings on the planet with so much power over the future of this planet.
David: Ever since Jesus, or before Jesus, there were certain people who had come up along and in fact they say, "Listen, fellas. Listen, girls or gals. Here's how it all fits together: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," for instance. I got to say, there's the, Trump and all that, it is the brass rule: "Do it to others before they can do it to you." That's the brass rule. Then these people come along and say, "Slow down people! Listen, you've reached a little peak here, and you should stay there because that's how it's all put together." But the world rushes on because, "Oh, we got to have a gadget. We got to have this, we got to have that," and so on, continually, and this affects science and so on. They rush on. This is one of the reasons why they got locked in on Darwin as "the survival of the fittest" because it fit the system, it justified being a horse's ass, and that's where just somewhere to be, to hang on to this. I hope that makes sense.
Cole: It's just astonishing to me, and it's very inspiring to me to see two people in partnership being so active and keeping it up and staying alive and staying.
Riane Eisler: Our partnership has a lot to do with that, Cole. And as you have said again and again, it is a very powerful thing to have a real partner, mutually supporting partner, and love. We humans have a yearning for caring connection despite the old story. And that's why I think David's work on Darwin has been so important because by focusing only on what he wrote in what Darwin wrote in his first major book, we're really supporting the old story about human beings and the story of selfish genes, the story of original sin, the story that says human nature is bad, selfish, purely selfish. And therefore, we have to be rigidly controlled from the top — what I call the domination or a dominator system. And so, I think his work isn't about some arcane idea. Well, Darwin-Darwin has been used as one of the meta-stories, a secular meta-story, to maintain domination systems. And then Darwin, in The Descent of Man, actually wrote that he apologized for using "survival of the fittest".
Cole: That's astonishing. Yeah, people have no idea that that he did that.
Riane: They have no idea, and this is the phrase, of course did not originate with Darwin; it was Herbert Spencer, the same Herbert Spencer who was absolutely embraced in this so-called gilded age of tremendous inequality. I like the age we're living in now for his survival of the fittest, which was then used to justify horrendous economic inequality and still is.
Cole: Wow. Yeah. I see both of you, in the work that you do. As I was getting ready to do this interview, the common thread that I perceive in your work, you're both doing what I think of as restorative work, with David restoring what we've lost. Recovering. And there's like, we're trying to recover as human beings in our society. We're trying to recover from damage that we've done to ourselves in the world. And we're also trying to recover lost pieces of the story and integrate those back in, and I know David has done that with Darwin and you, Riane, have done it through so many lenses: recovering our history even with some archeology and anthropology finding ancient sites, et cetera and learning a new more accurate story about partnership cultures from our distant past that really can change our whole conception of who we are, where we came from. Right?
Riane: Absolutely. And I think that we need... I think of it and I love your idea of recovery. I think of it in terms of my work, in terms of not only deconstruction, which is a critique, but it's more than critique for me. When I speak of deconstruction, when I'm thinking of really as the analytical lens that we use, but more importantly, reconstruction and-
Cole: Regeneration, reconstruction, it's like the sustainability movement has turned into the regenerative movement. I noticed that one [crosstalk].
Riane: And I think that, that is what is needed today. It's not enough to just critique. We really need a concrete vision, a roadmap, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said of The Real Wealth of Nations, one of my books, a roadmap to that better world we've been so earnestly seeking, to quote him. I think that it's hard for us to get out of our comfort zones.
Cole: I would agree.
Riane: And that one demands that, it demands that we really use a different lens.
Cole: Why do you feel these misconceptions about Darwin matter today? Because a lot of folks might just go, "Oh, Darwin, that's a long time ago. It's a quaint, archaic thing. What does that have to do with anything right now? We've got a lot going on in this world, and why should I care about Darwin?" In fact, I'm just, really quick, one more quote from your book. This is quoting you in the back of this book. You said here, "By the year 2000, I think pretty much all of us felt we had entered what increasingly looms as the cliff edge crunch point in human evolution." I love that line, "the cliff edge crunch point in human evolution". It sounds like that meta-crisis I was mentioning a minute ago. David, if we're at this cliff edge crunch point of human evolution, why should we care about what Darwin said that everybody forgot? Why should people go back? Why is it important? How can it actually change what's happening in this crunch point we're in right now?
David: Because when Darwin came along, he set forth the best understanding of what it all was about. His theory, in essence, is in two steps. There's the step that he wrote about an origin of species, heavily into the biology. Natural science, biology fits that model. And you can say it was survival of the fittest. He didn't like the phrase, he didn't want to use it. And you can say that, that fits that, it's in terms of Riane's work you're going to be taking up, it's the dominator model. It's a dominator system that Riane is writing about. That was the first half of Darwin's theory, that the system sees as, "Oh, this is just what we need to justify our horrible ways." So Darwin comes along and says, "This is the one road. When you shift from the animal level to the higher animal level, to the man-"
Riane: Has moved from purely the biological level to the cultural level.
David: Yeah, and there's this point where you flip on into a higher level, and Riane explored it in-depth, a partnership model. The partnership versus a dominator model. And so that second stage there that the system at all levels quickly excluded, went on leaving Darwin back in here. And we're hopefully moving toward, out of this crunch point cliff edge crisis into that higher direction, and if we've got the Father of Evolution Theory, Darwin himself, laying it out for us... The reason I'm pushing it so hard is that, frankly, I don't think we can make it if we don't reclaim Darwin. If we don't reclaim Darwin, we're simply aren't going to make it as a species. We have to go back and understand what Darwin was really writing about, what he was trying to offer us.
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Cole: Can I briefly ask you about your childhood experience? Because I think particularly your newest book that I'm reading right now, you talked about the importance of the childhood years and developmentally, how are our brains develop, et cetera. And I wonder how much your own childhood impacted you and your life's work? Would you mind speaking about it, Riane?
Riane: Oh, it impacted me directly and the passion that I have for this work, and I have a great deal of for it, is deeply rooted in that my early childhood experiences. As you said, I was a refugee child with my parents from the Nazis. We escaped really by only a hair's breadth to Cuba because the Nazis confiscated (you know that's an official term for armed robbery) everything that my parents owned. I grew up in the industrial slums of Havana even after my parents got on their feet, because they were very entrepreneurial, and Cubans had so-called protective labor laws where you couldn't get a job if you were an immigrant, as my parents were, and they started their own business, et cetera, et cetera. Even after they got on their feet, we still stayed in the industrial slums. I went to the best schools, actually. I went to a high school in the suburbs, you know, manicured, beautiful houses, so different from where I lived. Every day as I took that streetcar back and forth, it was culture shock.
Cole: Wow. Yeah. Every single day back and forth. And then to be uprooted from Vienna to Cuba in a new language and everything.
Riane: Well, these were obviously traumatic experiences, and they led me to the questions that my research really seeks to answer and does answer, "Does it have to be this way? Does there have to be so much cruelty and injustice, insensitivity, violence, or are there alternatives? If so, what are they?" And of course I didn't embark on this research until quite a lot of other life experiences, but I did. And I introduced a new method, which is completely multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, really.
And I think that the movement in the academy now, which your university really is a beautiful example of, is essential because we not only have to connect the dots instead of the siloed approach that we have been used to, but we also have to include. But they're not dots, they're lacunae. They're huge areas that have been left out. And by this, I mean the traditional studies of society paid — like our traditional social categories, right, lifts, religion, secular, and so on — they paid scant, if any, attention to the majority of humanity: women and children. And if you do that, if you basically ignore where we all live, basically-
Cole: Our homes, you're saying where we all go home, where the men go home when they're done working and the rest of them.
Riane: But starting with intimate family and other intimate relations, you cannot connect the dots between, as my work does, between two underlying human possibilities, the domination system and the partnership system, which transcend conventional categories, which really show that yes, the obvious, what is now verified by none less than neuroscience, a so-called "hard" quote science. Not just psychology a quote "softer" science, and those categories I'll get back to in a minute, soft and hard, because they have a lot to do with agenda system of values.
If you don't really pay attention to that, you can't see that it's not coincidental that, whether it was for Hitler in Germany, for Khomeini in Iran, for, well, for Trump in the United States, it was so-called Rightist Fundamentalist Alliance right here. A top priority is always in return to the so-called quote "traditional" family, which is code, isn't it? For originally authoritarian, male-dominated, highly punitive family. So there is a relationship between what so much of today's progressive movements decry: oppression, violence, warfare, et cetera. And, yes, our primary human relations, childhood relations and gender relations, how those are socially constructed.
Cole: You said a mouthful, you really did. Just for folks who are listening that aren't already familiar with your work, I just want to ask a clear simple question. What are the central principles of your cultural transformation theory that you brought to the world in 1987 in The Chalice & The Blade? What are those central principles?
Riane: What I identified — look, when I set out to answer the questions of my childhood, it was after, first of all, many life experiences, and one of them was to realize that as much as having been born Jewish almost cost me my life, having been born a woman, female, also had enormously impacted my life, my life options, how I saw myself, how I saw the world. And I, in fact, as you mentioned, wrote a number of books before this research, because not only do I have a background in systems science, I worked for an offshoot of the Rand Corporation, the systems development corporation, at a time when systems analysis was just being born. But I also am an attorney; I went to the UCLA School of Law. So one of my first two books was The Equal Rights Handbook [What ERA Means to Your Life, Your Rights, and the Future] on the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. And when that simple amendment, which would only have prohibited the federal government or the states to discriminate on the basis of sex, when it failed, I realized it is important and it is important, and I was part of that movement, as it is to change laws. It is also — what we really need is a cultural transformation, but the question then was from what to what.
Cole: That's right. I got it.
Riane: It became very obvious that being stuck in right/left, religious/secular, Eastern/Western, Northern/Southern, capitalist/socialist, if you really think about it, none of them answer... they are useless. They're really all useless, because there have been oppressive, repressive, violent regimes in every one of those categories. If we're looking for an alternative, we have to really start — back up and look at the whole span of our history using a database that doesn't leave out a majority of humanity: women and children.
Cole: That's right. That broader perspective that's the broader frame, the more integrative perspective.
Riane: Yes. And that is really what I do in the new methodology I introduce, which is the study of relational dynamics. And it looks at two relations. One, how do the major core components of a system relate to each other? And secondly, what kinds of relations, if you will, does a system, a social system support or inhibit? Because we humans, as we know if we really take a look at quote "human nature", we have enormous capacities for consciousness, for caring, for creativity, but we also have those capacities that we, unfortunately, have so much focus on and that domination systems, because that's what distinguishes between domination systems and partnership systems, what they support capacities for cruelty, for insensitivity, for violence, and for destructiveness.
So by introducing these configurations, because what happens when you look at the whole picture of, starting in our prehistory to today and the whole of humanity, including the majority, women and children, what you see are patterns that keep repeating themselves cross-culturally and historically. There were no names for these patterns. So I called one the dominator or domination system and the other one the partnership system. And yes, the cultural construction of childhood and gender relations figures prominently in each of these configurations.
Cole: Very interesting. And no one had really looked at it that way. This is a new way, a new view.
Riane: It is a new view. I mean, certainly feminists — but look I want to back up here for a moment, because if you look at the 600 years of so-called modern science starting 12th, 13th century, what you see, as the historian of science David F. Noble writes, is a world without women. And I would add a world without children. It started in a clerical, celibate, and yes, very misogynist culture. And if you really think about that, so much of our thinking, I mean, when I began to have enormous change in consciousness, I realized that in all my years of so-called higher education, there had been hardly anything by, about, or for people like me, women. Now that's beginning to slowly change, but consider that even women's studies didn't start until 50 years ago... out of 600 years. And then we have men studies, gender studies, queer studies — I mean, a huge section of humanity has been ignored.
Cole: Just left out. Yeah. So you've done this work to integrate, to bring in the majority of humanity. You've started to map a new map that isn't about left/right, East/West, North/South, conservative/liberal, all those usual categories. And you start to see these patterns that you couldn't see otherwise that run across all those dichotomies. And then so your lens- [crosstalk] pardon me?
Riane: I saw that actually history isn't just this random thing that we're taught, that there are patterns, and that the real struggle for our future is not between right and left religious/secular, Eastern/Western, but within all of these cultures, including capitalist and socialist between the domination and the partnership system is to underlying human alternatives. But as I said, it's hard to get people to leave the comfort zones or conventional categories, and it's hard in academia in particular because a really solid academic education has left out the majority of humanity.
Cole: Yeah. It's like when Einstein said you can't use the same thinking that got you into the problem to get you out of the problem, you need a new way of thinking. I do know from reading your work, that you make a point in your latest book that it's very dangerous when people start to apply those principles from Darwin's famous Origin of Species, that is really about biology, as you say, and they apply that to the social sphere, they apply to society and start saying that it's the same thing. "Survival of the fittest" can be applied to our social relations and to society. And that is, as you say, what we get in a dominator system, which Riane writes about that we'll be talking about here. And then that's dangerous. And just to put a finer point on it, why is it dangerous to use Darwin's first half of the theory and apply it where it doesn't belong in the social, cultural sphere, why is that so dangerous?
David: I have in the book, I have the perfect explanation, I have the perfect characterization of that.
Riane: Darling, you have written about Darwin having been used as an 800-pound gorilla to maintain the system.
Cole: I'd just like to hear in your words, what's so dangerous about using that first half of Darwin, the biological side, the natural selection side, and try to apply that to business. It makes me think of the eighties. It makes me think in the movie Wall Street, it makes me think of greed taken to the Nth degree, and scientists were backing that up even as late as the eighties, right? Talking about the selfish gene and trying to say, people are just selfish, it's dog eat dog and that's just how we are. That's just the nature of who we are. And why is that important that people use science to back that up and make these claims and for people to have this sort of baseline idea operating system of that's just how we are and so, therefore, it doesn't matter if I'm a moral, ethical person or not. I'm just, I'm just operating on human nature. Right. That's kind of the line that we get.
David: I always felt I really pinned it down in the epilogue to this book [shows Rediscovering Darwin to camera] and then there's this one [shows Darwin's Lost Theory to camera] and Darwin's Second Revolution. But in the epilogue to the one that you've got [Rediscovering Darwin], "Who did it, why, and what now? So once again, where did we go off track and how can we get back on track? In evolution, the quick answer, I'm tempted to say, is this, "Isn't this what you get, if you chop a good theory of evolution in half and try to run the world with the worst half for that purpose?" Let me just read that once again, "Isn't this what you get, if you chop a good theory of evolution in half and try to run the world with the worst half for that purpose?" That to me, it sounds sort of flippant, but it's bang! On target.
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Cole: Maybe it would help folks if you could give some examples of domination and partnership systems. In your latest book and you name names more or less, you give some from the past, from history, and some from today.
Riane: I do all along in every one of my books in starting in [The] Chalice [& The Blade], but the book that just came out with Oxford University Press, Nurturing Our Humanity, really shows how neuroscience actually supports the findings from my research. And that was fascinating and also how findings about millennia of human history. This is why I invited Douglas Fry. I'd been working on this book for seven years, and then I invited Doug to join me because he's probably the leading expert on foraging societies, which he calls the original partnership societies. But to give some examples of each, well, we can start, really, with the societies that I mentioned a moment ago. We can start with Hitler's Nazi Germany, with Stalin's former Soviet Union, with Khomeini's Iran, with ISIS, the Taliban, the Rightist Fundamentalist Alliance in the United States — very different aren't they, in many ways? Secular versus religious, Eastern or Western, capitalist or socialist... Oh! Kim Young Un's North Korea is part of that picture. But they all share in a configuration of the domination system, which is authoritarian rule in both the family and the state or tribe.
Cole: Both the family and the state, and that's something you put together. You're tying that together. What happens in a family and what happens in the state are intrinsically related to one another deeply, right?
Riane: Absolutely. Intrinsically related. And you know, it's an insight that has intermittently been made, but it's been made within the domination system, and it's been marginalized. But my work really goes much further than that because it also shows that there is a partnership alternative.
Cole: Yes. Let's hear about some partnership alternatives.
Riane: Because I think we need to know that not only is it possible, but that actually it makes for greater human development, that it makes for greater happiness, health, and, I would add speaking of evolution, that it is more in line with the movement in evolution, from not only a simpler to more complex life forms, but towards more consciousness, which we see in evolution, towards more caring, which we see in evolution. And really, as Frans de Waal put it, "If it weren't part of human nature, why do we have such a capacity for empathy? Why did nature really move in that direction towards empathy?" But to give examples of these societies, well, we can start with our foraging societies. What we see there, and we lived that way for most of the thousands and thousands and thousands of years, much longer than the little period we call recorded history.
And what we see is societies where there is more equality in both the family and the tribe, where there is not this ranking of male over female and within of anything considered hard or masculine over anything considered in domination systems quote "soft" or feminine. There is far less violence; there is no warfare. (I mean, there is some violence; we sometimes lose it.) And the stories are very different about, especially, stories about human nature. But we see that all the ways in our cultural evolution through the early Neolithic. We see it in the so-called Paleolithic.
We see it — and you know, in The Chalice & The Blade and Sacred Pleasure: [Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body—New Paths to Power and Love], I was really very much in the reclamations phase of trying to reclaim what has been left out in our history. So I have a lot of examples, Çatalhöyük, Minoan Crete, but we also see it in highly technologically developed societies today, such as the Northern European nations, that Sweden, Finland, Norway, they were so poor at the beginning of the 20th century, that there were famines. And because they moved to what they often call a caring society, they invested in their human and natural infrastructure, childhood, and caring for a natural environment, today these societies, which have the lowest gender gaps by the way, also are regularly in the highest ranks of the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Reports. So, we have to put the pieces together. We have to connect the dots, and this is what this work is about.
Cole: Thank you. I mean, it's really good that we have modern technological examples so that people don't just go, "Oh, we can't go back to this foraging lifestyle; that's impractical." So, I think it's important for folks — I mean, we saw that with Bernie Sanders's campaign, with healthcare, of looking to some of those countries and how they do things and to your point that these are caring economies, right. And they did rise up from poverty to, as you just said, to the leadership level while taking care of people, because I think a lot of times there's that, that argument from the dominator system that says it's just another form of socialism, and they'll critique that and say that the individual has been knocked down and dominated. But that's really, it's much more freeing if you're free. If your kids are taken care of and everybody has healthcare, you're much more free to pursue the things you're passionate about and the work that you want to do in the world in a more equal footing between the genders and more equality. Correct?
Riane: Well, first of all, these are not socialist nations.
Cole: Right, yeah. I'm just talking about how they get painted within the dominator system though, sort of.
Riane: They have a very, very healthy market economy, and they very often call themselves caring societies. And it's not because — because that's the other argument: "Well, they're small; they're relatively homogeneous." Well, there are lots of small, relatively homogeneous societies which are very domination oriented with enormous gaps between haves and have nots, with very rigid male dominance, right? And with this gender system of values, characteristic of domination systems, where caring for people is supposed to be just women's work, right, to be done in a male-controlled household for free. But we're talking really about my book The Real Wealth of Nations [Creating A Caring Economics] right now. But we're also talking about really our caring economy campaign and about the new metrics that we've introduced based on my work on social wealth, economic indicators, that show the enormous economic return to both businesses and to nations of caring for people starting in early childhood and caring for nature.
In other words, no longer splitting from economic theory these three life-sustaining sectors and whatever happens there are just externalities in the conventional economic jargon. No! There is the household economy, the natural economy, and the volunteer community economy, and they have to be part of the economic domain if we are to have a sensible and accurate economic approach. Economics that works for us, and in this meta-crisis, we have to shift. We have to shift, but neither Smith nor Marx believed this. They relegated this work to "reproductive rather than productive work" and that's still taught in our economic schools, which is crazy.
Cole: I'm so glad you brought that up. I think I first became aware of your work because I was studying Hazel Henderson and Susan Davis, and they were pointing me, at the time I was working on sustainability-related issues, and it brought me into economics and the way that we view all that, and this idea that all these women are doing all this work of raising children and caring for people, and so much of it is free or volunteering on the school board and just a massive amount of labor and effort that is not on anybody's bottom line. It's not in the GDP, it's not being measured, and it just struck me like a bullet, like good Lord! How can we be so blind to all of this?
And to your point, to see somebody like yourself actually doing the hard work, putting the pieces together, talking about new measures, and showing and proving out that, some of these Northern European countries you're talking about can retool a whole new economic system where everybody does better by everybody being taken care of is so important as we're at this critical juncture right now, with everything falling apart with the pandemic and the economic distress.
Riane: The pandemic has really shown just how fragile and how this function current systems are. But we're not only talking about our economic system. Look at our so-called criminal justice system. I mean, it's a disaster, as the murder of George Floyd showed us all. Really horrendous, horrendous. But that's a routine thing. And I think we have to come to grips with the fact that that desensitization of the policemen who killed him, is part of what happens in domination systems. I go into that in detail in my new book, in Nurturing Our Humanity, how domination and partnership shape our brains, lives, and future because children in rigid domination subcultures, and families then because there's a relationship, of course, they are really dependent on highly punitive, insensitive — I mean, it's passed on from generation to generation. So, if we are taught that you're coddling children if you don't hit them, right? Even the American Psychological Association in the last couple of years has come out and said, "Hey, spanking is not only ineffective, by the way, because it gets you very rebellious kids, but it harms, it harms children psychologically and physically."
I mean, the ACEs studies, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Studies, that are in Nurturing Our Humanity show how even the United States where we don't have genital mutilation, where we have really, I mean, far less brutality as the norm towards children than many other more domination-oriented nations, and even here the extent of adverse childhood experiences (traumatic experiences we're finally calling them) is huge. And that these have physical, physical effects as well as very bad psychological effects, and as I show, horrible social effects because people who are forced to love those that cause them pain — the strong, right, so to speak, getting back to Darwin now, survival of the fittest (who are the meanest) — if they're forced to love them, they identify with the strong man, don't they?
Cole: Yeah. And you point out in your book that it influences how people vote and how they view everything and then influences their brains and the connections that are made or not made in the brain and their modes of thinking that can get locked in. And you talk about people can't even shift out of it. Because they'll just stay with this one thing no matter what, like those studies of people doing what they're told, no matter what if it's right, or if it's wrong, they're just kind of can't, don't have the plasticity because of the dominator culture in which they're raised and their family and the surrounding culture. They're so used to just do what you're told. They can either tell others what to do what they're told or obey, but there's no breaking out of that, and that's very damaging and counter-evolutionary.
Riane: And it is counter-evolutionary, because we have a huge capacity for consciousness and what this kind of exteriorly experience, which we know today that what children observe and experience affects nothing less than how their brains develop. So we really have to pay attention.
Cole: Be sure to catch part two of this conversation where we explore questions like, "How did Darwin foresee key 20th-century scientific breakthroughs like Chaos Theory?", "Where does the United States currently fall on the Dominator-Partnership Continuum?", and "How have Riane and David applied the partnership model in their own lives?"