Russ Volckmann

Riane Eisler, The Real Wealth of Nations, San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2007Riane Eisler, The Real Wealth of Nations, San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2007.

If you are not familiar with Riane Eisler’s work and her contrasting dominator with partnership models you could go back to her original work, The Chalice and the Blade, or to her books on Partnering. However, it you are interested in a system-level application of the principles of her approach, this is the book to read. Her message is clear: “I have called this book The Real Wealth of Nations because it shows 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.”

We are faced with environmental, social, political and economic challenges of major proportions in the world today. To meet those challenges, “…we must give visibility and value to the socially and economically essential work of caring for people and nature. Indeed…it’s unrealistic to expect change in uncaring economic policies and practices unless caring and caregiving are given greater value.” It is the role of the economic system to promote human welfare and happiness.

Beginning with an account of our current approaches to economics, Eisler applies the lens of dominator/partnership cultures. She discusses these in relation to standards and rules for determining what is economically valuable, “caring economic rules, policies and practices; inclusive and accurate economic indicators; and economic and social structures that support partnership rather than domination.” She ultimately lays out a map for implementing the partnership approach. She makes some points that I found particularly interesting.

One is to be careful of relying on networks as an alternative social structure. We need to recognize that they are a tool, like all social structures, and can be used for generative or destructive, dominating purposes. A second is her discussion of multiple economies: household, unpaid community, market, illegal, government and natural economies. Her innovative approaches include all of these. Third, we need to support and reward caring activities. Machines and technology cannot be creative, flexible and caring. This requires changing the rules so that “caring for ourselves, our children, and our growing elderly population has a high value, with funds allocated for training and support.”

Finally, Eisler points out that there are growing numbers of organizations around the world that are working to create economic and social change. “Hundreds of thousands of nongovernmental organizations are working to change patterns of poverty and economic injustice, preserve our environment, change unhealthy lifestyles, promote nonviolent conflict resolution, and protect the human rights of children, women, and men.”

Eisler’s work seems to me to be on the leading edge of human development, In Spiral Dynamics terms, one can find green and orange with a hint of blue and the possibility of yellow. Green is heavily represented in a vision of social and economic systems that offer greater equity in the world. Orange is present in the requirements for creative leadership. Blue finds expression in a strong set of values that she would have everyone to support. The possibility of yellow is in the integration of these. But that is where I would like to see further exploration of this work, in the application of cultural and individual development stage models to designing the map for realizing her most wonderful vision.

Right! It is wonderful to me because it so strongly appeals to my Green sensitivities and aspirations for integration.

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Ken Wilber, The Integral VisionKen Wilber, The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe, and Everything. Boston: Shambhala, 2007.

Let me be clear from the beginning: I am deeply, deeply appreciative of the work of Ken Wilber. I appreciate the many, many ways he has contributed to the thinking, doing and being of growing numbers of people in the world with his integrative vision that includes all that we are and can aspire to. I appreciate the passion that leads him to find many, many ways to communicate his messages and models. One of the most intriguing aspects of his work involves innovative ways in which we make meaning of our experiences and our perspectives.

This “little” 200+ page book is full of graphics and large print. It provides an entertaining journey through Wilber’s approaches to mapping and developing an integral life practice. In the end he makes it clear that the map provides a 3rd person perspective, that is, it is you and me looking at someone or something else, but that we should not forget that there are “other important realities, all of which should be included in any comprehensive approach.”

But the focus is really on how we, each of us, develop in our lives. How we learn and discover, experience and develop our capacities for engaging with ever more complex aspects of life, our own and that around us. For example, he states, that the integral operating system.

…is a neutral framework; it does not tell you what to think, or force any particular ideologies on you, or coerce your awareness in any fashion, [Therefore….]it can be used to bring more clarity, care, and comprehensiveness to virtually any situation, making success much more likely, whether that success be measured in terms of personal transformation, social change, excellence in business, care for others, or simple happiness in life.

He continues,

Thus, to cultivate body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature. This is the extraordinary aim and goal of the integral approach, and we would love to have you join us in this exciting adventure.

And this message is at the core of Wilber’s work. It is a call to explore, develop, discover, learn and participate in the evolution of life and systems and the earth. Here is a handy little book for learning about how Ken Wilber proposes we proceed.

Is it for everyone? Not likely. But it is likely to be welcomed by those at Sprial Dynamics’ Green (and those rare individuals at higher levels) in at least some lines of development. As I understand Ken Wilber’s vision it is to accelerate the development of individuals into those higher levels until a critical mass is reached so that the fundamentals in the ways we conduct all human endeavors are altered to reflect these perspectives.