Why Life-Values Really Matter

For those of you who have had the chance to watch the three Ted Talks in the previous post, Beginning to see the light and helping to shift the paradigm, I hope you would begin to realize that the structure and function of our different world views do matter.  What I hope to accomplish at the end of this article is to show you that any school of thought that does not incorporate life-values, is doomed to undermine the life capital of our bodies, our societies and that of the planet. Therefore trying to understand whether or not our theories or models have life-values as inputs or not, will determine whether the outputs will be life-enabling or not.

The best person that readily comes to mind that has devoted the most to studying different systems of organization, is none other that Raine Eisler.  Her ground-breaking book, ‘The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future‘ is a must read.  Her latest article summarizes her discoveries over the years and the direction in which she is taking her research.

(Please see, Eisler, Riane (2014) “Human Possibilities: The Interaction of Biology and Culture,”Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 3. Available at:http://pubs.lib.umn.edu/ijps/vol1/iss1/3.)

Here is an excerpt from the article that explains her approach to the subject:

“I developed the study of relational dynamics as a new tool for analyzing cultures. This method of inquiry is based on two assumptions:

  1. To understand our cultural evolution, we have to take into account the interaction between both our collective and individual genes and our experiences in different environments.
  2. The most important environments for humans at this point in our evolution are the cultural environments we create.

The study of relational dynamics draws from a much wider database than earlier studies. Unlike conventional studies (often aptly called “the study of man”), this method includes the whole of humanity—both its female and male halves. Rather than focusing on one period at a time, it looks at the whole span of history—including the long period before written records called prehistory. In contrast to conventional studies, which have focused on politics and economics, the study of relational dynamics looks at the whole of our lives—including our family and other intimate  relations.

Using this more complete database makes it possible to see connections between key  parts of social systems: social configurations that transcend familiar categories such as religious vs. secular, Eastern vs. Western, rightist vs. leftist, industrial vs. pre- or postindustrial, and so forth.  Religious/secular, Eastern/Western, and ancient/modern are shorthand for ideological, geographic, and time differences. Right/left and liberal/conservative describe political orientations. Industrial, pre-industrial, and postindustrial describe levels of technological development. Capitalism and communism are labels for  different economic systems. Democratic/authoritarian describes political systems in which there are, or are not, elections.

None of these categories takes into account the totality of the institutions, assumptions, beliefs, relationships, and activities that constitute a culture. Most critically, conventional categories fail to take into account the cultural construction of the primary human relations: the formative childhood relations and the relations between the male and female halves of humanity—even though these relations are basic to our species’ survival as well as to what children learn to view as normal or abnormal, moral or immoral, possible or impossible.

A basic principle of systems science is that if we do not look at the whole of a system, we cannot see the connections between its various components—just as if we look at only part of a picture, we cannot see the relationship between its different parts.

What becomes evident looking at a larger picture that includes the cultural construction of parent-child and gender relations are social configurations that repeat themselves cross-culturally and historically. There were no names for these social configurations. So I called one the domination system and the other the partnership system.

The partnership system and the domination system are self-organizing and nonlinear. They describe mutually supporting interactions of key systems components that maintain a particular systems configuration. These interactions establish and maintain two very different types of relations—from intimate to international. One type is based on rigid rankings of domination ultimately backed up by fear and force. The other type is based on mutual respect, mutual
accountability, and mutual benefit.

No society orients completely to either the domination model or the partnership model. This is why I call this new conceptual framework the partnership/domination continuum. But the degree to which a society or time period orients to either end of this continuum profoundly affects which of our large repertoire of human traits and
behaviors is culturally reinforced or inhibited.”

As a result, these two configuration systems have different structures and outcomes.  These are summarized in the figure below:

Human Possibilities

Her husband, who is a psychologist, has actually extended her theories, to explain the formation of morality and the construction of conscience.

(Please see: Loye, David (2014) “Untangling Partnership and Domination Morality,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 6. Available at: http://pubs.lib.umn.edu/ijps/vol1/iss1/6).

He outlines a moral compass based on the fundamental difference between morality as culturally constructed in the context of the partnership model and that of the domination model of social organization.

The tables he used to contrast the different dimensions of partnership and domination morality are reproduced below:








I hope at this point that by studying the different dimensions of partnership and domination morality, we will begin to understand why the structure and function of our social, religious, scientific, economic and political theories do matter.

We can only relate to ourselves, each other and the biosphere via some type of organizing principle, and this then becomes our de facto moral compass.  As this is always the case, whether we are conscious of it or not, the nature of this moral compass also does matter.  Given that our life capital is the foundation of all that there is, from the universe, to the planet, to the ecosystem and to all life-forms, I hope it would come as no surprise to the discerning reader that we can only become responsible stewards of this life capital, if and only if, it is based on true partnership systems of organization and morality that are grounded in life-value principles. It is in this context that we would begin to appreciate that life-values really matter!!

With this new realization, the defining question of our time, is now how best to manage our life capital.  Since we are now talking about the management of various levels of organization from the home, to the community, to the nation, and now to supranational entities, making our life capital the base of all of our deliberations and the rules of engagements in all our our social constructs and contracts, must become the defining transformative event of our time.

It is no longer about management of the scarce resources of land, labour and non-life capital, but the management of the abundant resources of life capital in all of its manifestations, no longer guided by hierarchies of life-debasing domination, but now guided by hierarchies of life-enabling actualisation.

Please take the time, to read and study the two articles cited here for more details of this partnership/domination system of organization and morality.

Eisler, Riane (2014) “Human Possibilities: The Interaction of Biology and Culture,”Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 3. Available at:http://pubs.lib.umn.edu/ijps/vol1/iss1/3

Loye, David (2014) “Untangling Partnership and Domination Morality,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 6. Available at: http://pubs.lib.umn.edu/ijps/vol1/iss1/6

These articles will help provide the cognitive maps to guide us in uncharted territories as we begin to explore in some more detail some of the insights found in Professor John McMurtry’s ground-breaking book: ‘The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure

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