Creating a Caring Economics

Riane Eisler’s book, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, proposes a new approach to economics that gives visibility and value to the most essential human work – the work of caring for people and nature. Her ideas are hailed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “a template for the better world we have been so urgently seeking,” by Peter Senge as “desperately needed,” and by Jane Goodall as “a call to action.”

RIANE EISLER is a social scientist, attorney, and author whose work on cultural transformation has inspired both scholars and social activists. Her research has impacted many fields, including history, economics, psychology, sociology, and education. She has been a leader in the movement for peace, sustainability, and economic equity, and her pioneering work in human rights has expanded the focus of international organizations to include the rights of women and children.

Dr. Eisler is the only woman among 20 great thinkers including Hegel, Adam Smith, Marx, and Toynbee selected for inclusion in Macrohistory and Macrohistorians in recognition of the lasting importance of her work as a cultural historian and evolutionary theorist. She has received many honors, including honorary Ph.D. degrees, the Alice Paul ERA Education Award, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2009 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award, and is included in the award-winning book Great Peacemakers as one of 20 leaders for world peace, along with Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King.

Dr. Eisler can be contacted at center@partnershipway.org. Her personal website is www.rianeeisler.com.

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Comment by Lady of the Woods on January 1, 2010 at 11:59pm
In her book "The Real Wealth of Nations" Riane Eisler proposes some "radical" ideas about that American market economy that drives so many of our lives – and promises us so much. She proposes that we’re overwhelmed as a nation, and that what has looked good on the surface for so long will not hold water much longer. Eisler calls for a Caring Economics, an economic system in which care - care for one another, ourselves, and the natural environment - is assigned economic indicators and monetary value.

In her view there are only two kinds of societies: dominator societies and partnership societies. Guess which one we live in?

In a dominator society the “main motivations for work are fear of pain and scarcity”. Didn’t some of us hear this definition in highschool and college economics courses: “Economics is the social science that studies the allocation of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited wants”? Eisler writes: “This definition is based on two assumptions: that scarcity is inevitable and that human beings are inherently greedy and hence have unlimited wants and demands. However, what this definition describes is not economics per se, but economics in a domination system”. The economics of a dominator system, presented to so many of us as science and fact, are based on religious belief and even myth that many of us reject in our lives of faith. Dominator systems of culture, and the economics they support are based on the idea that the human being is inherently sinful. That we’re selfish and will only help other people if it benefits us directly. That the earth and her creatures are beneath us and here to do our bidding, rather than to benefit from our stewardship.

Eisler gives us a new economics, based on what many of us DO believe about human beings and the world. “By the grace of evolution,” she writes, “we humans are equipped with a neuro-chemistry that gives us pleasure when we care for others.” She goes on to cite a recent study conducted by evolutionary anthropologist Felix Warneken: “[Felix] designed an experiment where eighteen-month-old babies watched him ‘struggling’ with ordinary tasks such as hanging towels with clothespins or stacking books. Over and over, as he ‘accidentally’ dropped a clothespin or knocked over books, each of the twenty-four toddlers in the experiment offered him help within seconds. But they only did this if Warneken appeared to need help. When he threw a pin on the floor or deliberately knocked over a book, the babies did not respond. On the other hand, if it looked like he needed help, the babies quickly toddled over, grabbed the object and eagerly handed it back to him”. Warneken did not thank or praise the babies in any way, and he formed no attachments or relationships with any of them – they acted out of the simple, apparently inherent, human impulse to help a stranger in need.

In this national system Eisler would have us valued for the care that is at the core of our humanity, at the core of our families, communities, nation and world, rather than for the goods or services we can produce. We would be rewarded for having greater consciousness, caring and creativity. We would be rewarded for holding a vision that ends isolation, consumption, violence and injustice instead of inducing it. We would be rewarded and able to participate in economic health largely by being who we are, rather than by doing what we do.
Comment by Desmond Nicoli on January 6, 2010 at 12:30pm
Thank you Serena. that was very important to me.

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