Eisler’s pioneering multidisciplinary, systemic approach has impacted many aspects of scholarship, society, and life.
Eisler’s work introduces a systemic approach to peace that is beginning to gain currency: building a culture of peace. This new approach proposes that peace education must include education for nonviolence in parent-child and gender relations as foundations for a culture of peace.
To this end, Eisler founded the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV) in conjunction with Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams. The purpose of SAIV is to raise awareness to the link between intimate violence and the violence of crime, terrorism, and war. Since most people in the world are religious and religious leaders have great moral authority, SAIV engages religious and other spiritual leaders to take a strong stand condemning violence against women and children as a key moral issue. It also seeks to influence policy makers to commit time and resources to combat violence in the primary human relations between men and women and parents and children – where people first learn respect for human rights or to view using force to impose their will on others as normal, even moral. SAIV provides materials to the public on prevention of violence, including its Caring and Connected Parenting Guide distributed to hospitals, pediatricians, mothers’ groups, and other groups.
Eisler’s analysis of the connection of intimate violence with warfare and other forms of group violence has been featured in many publications, including the Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict (she is on the editorial board) and the World Encyclopedia of Peace.
Eisler’s work on the foundations of cultures of peace is internationally recognized and she is invited to participate in many international meetings, ranging from Vaclas Havel’s Forum 2000 to most recently the Aspen Institute’s meeting to develop a plan for peace” in the 21st century.
She has received many honors for her work on peace, including the 2009 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award, earlier awarded to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Eisler’s work on the interaction of biology and culture led to the “Biocultural Partnership-domination lens,” which provides a new analytical framework for the study of human possibilities that disproves the old stories of “original sin” and “selfish genes” and takes into account the impact of human cultures on brain development, and hence gene expression, especially early childhood observations and experiences. This new analytical lens is introduced in Eisler and Fry, Nurturing Our Humanity (Oxford University Press, 2019).
Eisler’s research on cultural evolution offers a new perspective on our past, present, and the possibilities for our future. The book Macrohistory and Macrohistorians (Praeger, 1997) features Eisler’s contribution to a better understanding of the patterns of history, along with those of prominent macrohistorians such as Giambattusta Vico, Oswald Spengler, Karl Marx, Arnold Toynbee, Adam Smith, and Pitirim Sorokin. Eisler is the only living macrohistorian and the only woman included in this until now all-male group.
Eisler was the only female co-founder of the General Evolution Research Group, a multi-disciplinary group of scholars from Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Russia, China, and the U.S. headed by systems philosopher and evolutionary theorist Ervin Laszlo.
On publication of The Chalice and the Blade (Harper and Row, 1987), anthropologist Ashley Montagu called it “the most important book since Darwin’s Origin of Species.” Eisler’s cultural transformation theory has gained international attention. For example, it was substantiated by scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Science in Beijing, who tested it through their a multidisciplinary study of Asian prehistoric and historic cultural development, reporting their findings in The Chalice and the Blade in Chinese Culture, published and distributed both in English and Chinese in 1995. The noted Sumerian scholar Samuel Noah Kramer used Eisler’s theoretical framework for one of his last books, The Myths of Enki. In 1995, a special section of Pluriverso, a journal for European intellectuals published by Rizzoli, was devoted to Eisler’s new theory, featuring her concept of gylany.
Panels of historians and classicists focusing on Eisler’s new analysis of history have been presented at conferences. The archaeologist Marija Gimbutas used Eisler’s term gylany and Eisler’s cultural transformation theory to advance her own interpretation of prehistory in her final work, The Civilization of the Goddess. The philosopher Mara Keller, the historian of myth Malcolm Godwin, and many others have used Eisler’s cultural transformation theory and partnership and dominator models in their writings about prehistory.
Eisler’s theories on both biological and cultural evolution are included in many anthologies, such as The Great Adventure: Toward a Fully Human Theory of Evolution (SUNY Press, 2003), The Evolutionary Outrider: The Impact of the Human Agent on Evolution (Adamantine, 1998), and The Evolution of Cognitive Maps: New Paradigms for the Twenty-first Century (Gordon and Breach Science Publishers,1993). Her articles on evolution and human development have also been published in scientific and popular publications, for example, “The Dynamics of Cultural and Technological Evolution: Domination versus Partnership” (World Futures, 2002) and “Nature, Nurture, and Caring: We are not Prisoners of Our Genes,” with Daniel S. Levine, (Brain and Mind, 2003). Her 2019 book combines her most recent research and thinking on evolution and the light shed on human emotional and spiritual possibilities by findings from neuroscience with the findings from her co-author on how for millennia human foraging societies were “the original partnership societies.”
Drawing from her training as an attorney and constitutional law expert and her background in sociology, women’s studies, and systems theory, Eisler has been a pioneering architect of a new integrated approach to human rights. Her “Protecting the Majority of Humanity: Toward an Integrated Approach to Crimes against Present and Future Generations” for a Cambridge University Press book proposes that international law include violations of women’s and children’s rights as “crimes against humanity.”
In 1987, Eisler’s article “Human Rights: Toward an Integrated Theory for Action” was published by the Human Rights Quarterly, the first time this prestigious journal published an article proposing that women’s rights are human rights. Eisler then took this approach further to propose a new framework that no longer splits off from human rights theory and action the rights of the majority – women and children – as merely “women’s rights” and “children’s rights.” She has written many articles and book chapters on this, such as “Human Rights and Violence: Integrating the Private and Public Spheres,” in The Web of Violence, Lester Kurtz and Jennifer Turpin, editors (University of Illinois Press, 1996). This integration of the so-called public and private spheres into a unified conceptual framework continues to influence human rights theory and action.
Eisler’s work on human rights has led to many invitations to speak on the subject, ranging from the U.S. Department of State to Amnesty International to the 2018 “Safe World Summit” in Dublin, Ireland.
Her work for human rights is deeply rooted: in 1970 she wrote an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court prosing that gender-based discrimination violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Eisler proposed a Caring Family Policy Agenda that includes a Declaration of Children’s Rights, A Strong American Family Partnership, and A Family-friendly American Economy. Her reformulation of human rights theory and action inspired an international conference on human rights in Idaho attended by over 900 people, and her articles have been translated into many languages, including Chinese.
Politics and Economics
Eisler’s work transcends old political and economic categories such as right versus left, religion versus secularism, and capitalism versus communism. It shows how the partnership system and domination system are two underlying possibilities for structuring politics and economics.
Her work shows that those working to push us back to more rigid rankings of domination – man over man, man over woman, nation over nation, race over race, man over nature – have an integrated worldview and hence an integrated political agenda. They recognize that injustice, abuse, and violence in families are foundational to political and economic systems of injustice, abuse, and violence. For them, a top priority is a “traditional” authoritarian, male-dominated, highly punitive family. By contrast, for most progressives these are “just” women’s and children’s issues.
Eisler’s Integrated Progressive Political Agenda is a roadmap for reclaiming family, values, and morality from regressives. It focuses on building four cornerstones for a more equitable and sustainable society: childhood, gender, economics, and language/narratives. In 2016, Eisler spoke to U.S. progressive leaders about the urgent need for this agenda to guide long-term political strategy, and proposed specific actions to further this agenda. She also developed a Caring Family Policy agenda and other resources to shift political thinking in a partnership direction.
Eisler proposal for an integrated progressive political agenda as essential to prevent further regressions to domination is gaining national and international attention, as is her work on a new economics that recognizes that our most important economic assets are not financial – that the real wealth of nations consists of the contributions of people and our natural environment. Eisler summarizes these ideas in “Building a Caring Democracy: Four Cornerstones for an Integrated Progressive Agenda.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies, 2017: Vol. 4: Iss. 1, Article 2. Available at: http://pubs.lib.umn.edu/ijps/vol4/iss1/2
and “Roadmap to a Caring Economics: Beyond Capitalism and Socialism,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies (2017).
Based on her book The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics (Berret-Koehler 2007), hailed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “a template for the better world we have been so urgently seeking,” Eisler developed the Center for Partnership Studies’ Caring Economy Campaign focusing on developing new economic indicators, leadership training, and coalition building to move toward economic systems that meet both our material and spiritual needs. As part of this campaign, CPS commissioned the Urban Institute report The State of Society: Measuring Economic Success and Human Well Being to lay the groundwork for economic indicators that go beyond GDP and give visibility and value to the life-sustaining activities in households and nature (see www.centerforpartnership.org for details).
Twenty leading experts on the economy met on May 22-23, 2012 in Washington D.C. at a meeting co-sponsored by the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) and the Urban Institute to pave the way for the development of Social Wealth Indicators and explore their inclusion in the new Key National Indicators System authorized by Congress and in other national accounts. Social Wealth Indicators focus attention on what is needed for the development of every individual’s capacities throughout the life span as a requisite for national economic success and human well-being, especially in the post-industrial, knowledge/service age.
Among experts at the workshop were economists Randy Albelda and Nancy Folbre,
Professors of Economics, University of Massachusetts and authorities on the value of care work in both the paid and unpaid sectors; Steve Landesfeld, Director, and Matthew Osborne, Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce; W. Steven Barnett, Co-Director, National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers University; Joe Cordes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, George Washington University (who facilitated the meeting); Elizabeth Boris and Erwin de Leon, Director and Research Associate, Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Urban Institute (who co-hosted the meeting); Riane Eisler, CPS President; Tom Kingsley and Olivia Golden, Senior and Institute Fellows, Urban Institute; Lew Daly, Sustainable Progress Initiative and Senior Fellow, Demos; Rania Antonopoulos and Ajit Zacharias, senior scholars from the Levy Institute at Bard College; Sara Melendez, Partner, Savage/Melendez & Associates; Carlos E. Santiago, Chief Executive Officer, Hispanic College Fund; Jeffrey Hayes from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and a representative from the U.S. State Department. The report of this meeting, National Indicators and Social Wealth, can be downloaded at www.centerforpartnership.org.
Following these reports and the input from experts, Eisler was co-developer with MIT trained economist Indradeep Ghosh of Social Wealth Economic Indicators, new metrics that show that, rather than being in conflict, economic prosperity and a generally high quality of life are mutually reinforcing. These unique new metrics demonstrate the economic value of the work of caring for people, starting in early childhood. They show that in key respects the United States lags behind other developed nations, and not only describe outputs (e.g., educational, poverty, mortality rates, degrees of social cohesion and social equity) but also inputs (policies that invest in caring for people and nature, such as paid parental leave, high quality early childhood education, environmental protection) that lead to very different outcomes. They are also unique in showing that the status of women is a major factor in both quality of life and national economic success. For details, see the report by Ghosh and Eisler, SOCIAL WEALTH ECONOMIC INDICATORS: A New System for Evaluating Economic Prosperity, which can be downloaded from www.centerforpartnership.org
Eisler’s research demonstrates that many of our economic models and practices are our legacy from times that oriented more closely to the domination system. It shows that the great problems of our time – from poverty and inequality to war, terrorism, and environmental degradation – are due largely to flawed economic systems that fail to value and support the most essential human work: the so-called “women’s work” of caring and caregiving. It describes new business and government policies and practices, economic indicators that incorporate caregiving activities, and introduces a new economic system that goes beyond capitalism and socialism: a caring economics or partnerism.
Her earlier work on a caring economy inspired Congressional briefings as well as many other activities and programs aimed at moving toward more caring, effective, and sustainable economic policies. The Chalice and the Blade already opened this new economic discourse, which was then expanded in Sacred Pleasure (Harper Collins, 1995). The Power of Partnership (New World Library, 2002) introduced a new politics of partnership as part of an integrative agenda for personal and social transformation
Eisler was the principal investigator and senior author of Women, Men and the Global Quality of Life, a three-year study published by the Center for Partnership Studies in 1995. Recognized as an outstanding contribution by experts in global development and based on extensive statistical and qualitative analysis, this study for the first time substantiated a strong relation between equality for women and the general quality of life for everybody. Utilizing data from 89 nations, it not only shows the inadequacy of GNP and GDP as measures of quality of life, but helps lay the statistical ground for new, more realistic and humane indicators. The book was rushed into publication for distribution to delegates and NGO leaders attending the U. N. Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995.
While Marx wrote about the alienation of labor, Eisler writes about the alienation of caring labor: that the most essential work of caring for people, starting in childhood, is given so little value that it is not even included in calculations of economic productivity such as GDP (Gross Economic Product). In addition to her books, she has written essays and articles on this subject, including “The Economic Imperative for Revisioning the Rules of the Game: Work, Values, and Caring,” for a book published by Stanford University Press in 2007.
Throughout, Eisler shows how building a more sustainable and equitable economic system for all requires raising the status of women – and with this the status of stereotypically “feminine” values and activities such as caring, nonviolence, and caregiving, whether in women or men, or in business or government policies.
Spirituality and Religion
Eisler’s cultural transformation theory reveals the underlying dynamics that over thousands of years shaped religion and spirituality. She shows us how to differentiate between two themes in religion. One is the voice of the accumulated pain, anger, and fear from living under a domination system. The other is the voice of our highest stirrings — of what lies at the core of our true humanity.
Eisler has keynoted major events for Episcopal, Catholic, Jewish, Unitarian-Universalist, Church of Religious Science, and Baha’i communities. She addressed a major session of the 1993 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago (the only session addressing the need for a feminine divine), and her vision of partnership for humanity is incorporated in its Declaration of Principles, which repeatedly uses the term partnership, and specifically affirms commitment to a community of partnership between men and women, rejecting domination of one sex over the other.
Eisler’s analysis of religion and spirituality was called a “profound service to humanity” by theologian Walter Wink, and Episcopalian bishop John Spong wrote that “this world will welcome it.” Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi wrote that “Riane Eisler has done work in our pre- and early history that shows that we have been missing a major part of the big picture. She has helped rescue a paradigm that had been lost and suppressed for so long that its absence stunted our development as a civilization, particularly in the area of religion which has a major bearing on the other key institutions in society.” Gelek Rinpoche notes that “many speak of her work as a doorway to enable theologians, religious scholars and spiritual practitioners to address the confusion of the overlay of violence and limit placed upon western faiths, allowing for an emphasis on partnership/relationship through peace, compassion and wisdom.”
Eisler grounds the message of religions that humanity is made in the image of the divine in evolution, showing how the development of love and empathy increase as we move up the evolutionary ladder. She shows that love and creativity are just as grounded in evolution as the commonly emphasized elements of selfishness and violence, in fact more so. Her recognition that the human striving for oneness with what we call the divine can imbue us with the “spiritual courage” to stand up for a just, abundant, and caring way of life has inspired women and men worldwide.
The Environment and Population
In 2011 Eisler spoke at the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Harmony with Nature, noting that a systems approach to environmental issues is essential. Eisler’s systems approach correlates environmental issues with a partnership or domination cultural orientation. In The Chalice and the Blade, Sacred Pleasure, Tomorrow’s Children, The Power of Partnership, and The Real Wealth of Nations, she shows the connection between an ethos of “conquest of nature” and the environmental degradation and depletion now reaching crisis proportions. Eisler also shows the integral connection between environmental sustainability and population, and how this in turn requires raising the status of women worldwide. She shows how the subordination of women has been, and continues to be a major factor in overpopulation, with all its deleterious environmental and social consequence.
Eisler has spoken at many environmental meetings, for example, an Earth Day address in Lincoln Park, Chicago, and the Hollywood Call for Ecology Action in Los Angeles. She is on the advisory board of the Earth Island Institute and is a Councilor of the World Future Council in Hamburg, which focuses on the impact current policies and practices, especially environmental ones, have on future generations.
A key component of partnership education is what Eisler calls caring for life: for self, for others, and our Mother Earth. A key component of her “caring economics” is giving visibility and real value to the life sustaining processes of nature – and developing economic measurements, policies, and practices that promote and reward caring for people and nature.
Eisler’s work is the frame for the acclaimed documentary “Mother: Caring for 7 Billion,” which features her speaking about how environmental problems cannot be solved without taking into account overpopulation and its effect on not only global warming, pollution, and environmental despoliation, but also on conflict, for example, the specter of water wars.
Business and Organizational Development
Eisler’s work has influenced business and organizational development through books (her own and those of others) and speeches about partnership in the corporate culture, the partnership model in management, partnership creativity, women and management, and the partnership model for technology. She has spoken at corporations such as SBC, DuPont, Microsoft, Disney, Procter & Gamble, UBS, and Volkswagen International, as well as business organizations such as the Social Venture Network, Businesses for Social Responsibility, and the World Business Academy. She has also addressed major conferences on business and management, most recently the 2010 Academy of Management (AOM) international conference in Montreal, Canada, and a symposium and two professional development workshops were organized by Eisler’s colleagues for the 2011 AOM conference in San Antonio, Texas.
Eisler has published articles on the application of the partnership model in business and management journals, and shown applications to health care, the environment, and organizational learning, for example, through her distinction between hierarchies of domination and hierarchies of actualization, as well as her documentation of the value of caring for business success. (This is documented at length in Eisler’s, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, 2007)
Again, here Eisler shows how the entry of women into what was once a “man’s world” has helped to humanize the workplace and how women in positions of leadership have made, and continue to make, a difference in the world.
Eisler is a member of the Council on Extended Intelligence (CXI) organized by the IEEE and MIT to develop standards for Artificial Intelligence. She has spoken at a number of corporations and professional organizations about the benefits of the partnership model for business and society.
Education and Leadership
Eisler’s books are used by educators at the primary, secondary, and university levels, and her work has inspired leaders worldwide.
In Tomorrow’s Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education in the 21st Century (Westview Press, 2000), Eisler applied her research to educational process, content, and structure. The new curriculum proposed in the book integrates the sciences and humanities, the theoretical and practical, and provides a multicultural perspective on the history, contributions, needs, problems, and aspirations of both halves of humanity: women and men. Tomorrow’s Children has been highly praised by educators including Stanford Professor Nel Noddings (who wrote the Foreword), for offering young people a more accurate and hopeful picture of what being human can mean, and for outlining an education that will equip them to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was recently translated into Chinese and Urdu for use in Pakistan, where it is used in the Master’s program of the Lahore Government College of Education.
Eisler has spoken at educational conferences worldwide, such as the European Educational House Conference and the 5th International Congress of Education in Argentina, and keynoted educational conferences in the United States, such as the ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) Leadership Conference, the American Montessori Annual National Conference, and the Home Schooling conference.
In 2005, the Montessori Foundation founded the Center for Partnership Education to expand and update Montessori resources using Eisler’s work. It has held West Coast conferences on how to integrate Montessori and partnership education.
Eisler’s other books are assigned readings in university courses ranging from sociology, psychology, organizational development, and political science to education, women’s studies, and peace studies. High school classes also use these works, as do church and community adult education workshops.
PhD dissertations have been written utilizing Eisler’s models; for example, by Hillary Bendon for the Monterey Institute of International Studies on organizational development, by Alfonso Montuori for the Saybrook Institute on creativity, by Charles McCaffree for Goddard College on adult education, by Sister Ruthmary Powers for the Union Institute on partnership as a model for the educational restructuring movement, by Teddie Potter on nursing education, and by Rona Zollinger on environmental education. Eisler currently serves on the PhD committees of a number of students working on dissertations using her work.
Books by other scholars have used Eisler’s new social categories of the partnership system and domination system. For example, in 2008 Mary Kirk used it to frame her book, Gender and Information Technology: Moving Beyond Access to Co-Create Global Partnership (IGI Global) and Brian Griffin used it for his book Different Visions of Love: Partnership and Dominator Values in Christian History.
Eisler has taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels at various universities, most recently at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, to train leaders in how to use her work in fields ranging from politics and business to human rights, education, religion, and the media. She also teaches through CPS’s Leadership and Learning Program.
Eisler also continues to lecture at universities both in the United States and abroad, and does webinars for the Center for Partnership Studies, including her Master Class on Changing Our Story, Changing Our Lives as well as for allied organizations, including the Omega Institute. She has addressed conferences of leaders in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Australia. She has also written about leadership in many publications such as the Integral Leadership Review and Enlightened Leadership.
In the late 1980s, Eisler and her husband and partner, social psychologist and evolutionary theorist David Loye, co-founded the Center for Partnership Studies, dedicated to research and education on the partnership model (www.centerforpartnership.org).
In the 1970s she introduced innovative classes at UCLA, Immaculate Heart College, and the Los Angeles Center Legal Program (which she founded).
The Arts, Literature, and Mass Media
Eisler’s partnership model has influenced the arts, literature, and the mass media. For example, the ABC television series MacGyver did a two-hour episode based on information about prehistoric societies described in The Chalice and the Blade. The artist Barbara Schaefer created a multimedia project, “The Song of Memory,” based on The Chalice and the Blade. The Minnesota Opera New Music/Theater Ensemble commissioned suites inspired by The Chalice and the Blade. Scores of scholarly and other books have been influenced by Eisler’s work, including novels and children’s books such as High Kamilan and Moon over Crete. Eisler is a frequent guest on national and international radio shows, particularly NPR and UN Radio, and writes OpEds for both print and internet media. For examples, please see www.centerforpartnership.org and Eisler’s Speaking Schedule at www.rianeeisler.com