Partnership Model [as opposed to the Domination model]

Riane Eisler homepage

Center for Partnership Studies “Human Evolution is now at a crossroads. Stripped to its essentials, the central human task is how to organize society to promote the survival of our species and the development of our unique potentials. A partnership society offers us a viable alternative." - Riane Eisler | The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future

Whole Systems Change article by Riane Eisler, March 1,2016

Photo credit: Michael Collopy

Talking with Riane Eisler on Changing the Whole System RIANE EISLER | MARCH 16, 2016

Does there have to be so much cruelty and violence, so much injustice and suffering? Is it inevitable, as we are often told, just “human nature”? Or are there alternatives?

I wrote a brief to the US Supreme Court making the then radical argument that women should be considered persons under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and authored the only mass paperback book, The Equal Rights Handbook, to counter the falsehoods leveled again the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.. The 14th Amendment has been contested throughout history to uphold its deliberate language to protect all citizens regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

What kinds of relationships – from intimate to international – does a social system support: top down ranking or relations based on mutuality? This methodology revealed two underlying social patterns or configurations: the partnership model and the domination model. These new social categories transcend conventional ones such as right vs. left, religious vs. secular, ancient vs. modern, capitalist vs. socialist, and so on – which focus only on particular aspects of a system and pay scant, if any, attention to the cultural construction of the primary human relations between the female and male halves of humanity and between them and their daughters and sons. The partnership model and the domination model have two very different core configurations.

For example, Nazi Germany (secular, Western) and Khomeini’s Iran and ISIL (religious, Eastern) orient closely to the domination model. The Minangkabau (religious, Eastern) [see below] and Nordic nations (secular, Western) orient to the partnership model.

A major factor in these [Nordic nations, which include Sweden, Finland, and Norway] countries’ partnership orientation is the higher status of women (for example, women are 40-50% of national legislatures). With this has come a higher valuing of the “feminine.” So not only women but also men have voted for more “soft” or “caring” policies, such as universal health care, high quality child care, and generous state-supported paid parental leave. Before these policies were instituted, these nations were so poor that there were famines. While they are not ideal societies, today they have low poverty rates, high educational achievement rates, and a generally good standard of living for all. They are not socialist; they have successful market economies. They are what they often call themselves: “caring societies.”

Gender equity is a key component of the partnership configuration. Another is leaving traditions of violence behind. These nations passed the first legislation against physical discipline of children in families (an important partnership trend). They introduced peace studies, and have a strong men’s movement to disentangle “masculinity” from its equation with domination and violence. They are also in the forefront of policies to care for our natural environment, have a high proportion of cooperative enterprises, and invest proportionately more in aid to poor nations than other rich countries.

Real systems change requires leaving behind traditions of domination and violence in our primary gender and parent-child relations: the foundations on which domination systems keep rebuilding themselves.

... By contrast, caring for people and for nature is highly valued in partnership systems, and these values would inform policies. For example, high taxes would be levied on activities that create carbon emissions and there would be tax credits for companies that protect our natural life support system, such as manufacturing that recycles. Keeping a clean and healthy environment in both our homes and our planet would be highly valued. So would caring for people, which would be honored as both men’s and women’s work. The pejorative “nanny state” would be recognized as sexist and absurd.

An important part of the partnership political agenda is to bring partnership education into schools and universities. Many people recognize that old thinking cannot help us solve the problems it created. Young people are especially hungry for a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the world and living in it. If they are to be effective agents of change, starting now, they need to recognize beliefs, myths, and stories that promote domination or partnership, and learn the terrible consequences of domination and the benefits of partnership.

... The old economic map fails to recognize the contributions of the three unpaid economic sectors: the household economy, the community volunteer economy, and the natural economy. My book The Real Wealth of Nations introduces a new economic map that – along with the market, government, and illegal economies – includes these essential economic sectors. This integrative map is the foundation for a partnership economic system that recognizes that the real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of people and nature.

A guaranteed annual income or negative income tax where people are given monetary stipends is one response to the replacement of human workers by automation and robotics – trends that will exponentially increase with the advent of artificial intelligence. The response I propose in The Real Wealth of Nations is linking this monetary support to the work that only humans can perform: caring, caregiving, creating.

Minangkabau people an ethnic group indigenous to the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia.

The Minangkabau are famous for their dedication to education... As one of the world's most populous (as well as politically and economically influential) matrilineal ethnicity, Minangkabau gender dynamics have been extensively studied... traditions have allowed Minangkabau women to hold a relatively advantageous position in their society compared to most patriarchal societies, as most property and other economic assets pass though female lines.

Minangkabau women clad in traditional Minang costumes / Minangkabau Cuisine

The Minangs are the world's largest matrilineal society; properties such as land and houses are inherited through female lineage and guarded by clanmen. This custom is called Adat perpatih.

They are culturally and naturally proud people, they also have traditional belief of egalitarianism of "Standing as tall, sitting as low" (that no body stand or sit on an increased stage), they speak a language closely related to Bahasa Indonesia, which was considerably freer of hierarchical connotations than Javanese.

The staple ingredients of the Minangkabau diet are rice, fish, coconut, green leafy vegetables and chili. Meat is mainly limited to special occasions, and beef and chicken are most commonly used.. Spiciness is a characteristic of Minangkabau food: The most commonly used herbs and spices are chili, turmeric, ginger and galangal. Vegetables are consumed two or three times a day. Fruits are mainly seasonal, although fruits such as banana, papaya and citrus are continually available.

Three meals a day are typical with lunch being the most important, except during the fasting month of Ramadan when lunch is not eaten. Meals commonly consist of steamed rice, a hot fried dish and a coconut milk dish, with a little variation from breakfast to dinner.

New Systems: Possibilities and Proposals The Next System Project


Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. HarperOne (1988).

Eisler, Riane Tennenhaus. The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2008).

Send comments to, Colby Glass, MLIS, PhDc, Professor Emeritus