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Contrasting Systems: Partnership and Domination

The following is a simplified chart describing Riane Eisler’s two contrasting systems for organizing human relations--partnership and domination--combining materials from Eisler's The Power of Partnership and David Korten's The Great Turning (which uses Eisler’s work as the book's framework).

Underlying the many differences in societies, both cross-culturally and through history, are two basic cultural configurations: the domination system and the partnership system.  Unlike conventional categories, the partnership and domination systems take into full account the most foundational human relations, without which none of us would be here: the relations between the female and male halves of humanity and between them and their daughters and sons.

The last three hundred years have produced a strong movement toward partnership.  One tradition of domination after another has been challenged – from despotic kings to child abuse. However, most families and relationships lie somewhere between the dominator and partnership poles.  We need to move along the spectrum in the partnership direction in order to heal and empower all our relationships.

The following is a simplified chart combining materials from Eisler's The Power of Partnership and David Korten's The Great Turning.

Partnership System

Domination System

Humans have many possibilities

Humans are flawed and dangerous

Difference is valued

Difference is equated with superiority or inferiority

Power is used to empower and nurture through hierarchies of actualization

Power is used to control and destroy through hierarchies of domination

Women and men are equally valued

Men are dominant

Men and women can be nonviolent, empathetic, and caring

Masculinity is equated with control, conquest, and violence

Competition means striving for excellence

Competition means "dog eat dog"

People cooperate for mutual benefit

People cooperate to dominate others

Economic structures are equitable

Huge gaps between haves and have nots

Nature is highly valued

Nature is depleted and polluted

Morality of sensitivity, caring, and respect

Morality of insensitivity, control, and coercion

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