association vs domination25 Jul 2020
a new framework
This could be some kind of temporary conclusion to the train of thought of On Gender Abolition and Matriarchy and Speculation on the Impact of the Loss of Matriarchy, where, let’s remind ourselves, I was examining namely:
- Agender society of The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Womanhood and woman psyche, why is it somewhat broken and how to possibly “fix it”
- What would mean the come-back of matriarchy
I left those texts thinking matriarchy didn’t sound quite right to me, as I’m interested in non-hierarchical systems and as I still have the impression that genders are some not-that-usefull constructs nowadays.
And then I fell upon The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler (1987) and I was delighted to discover a brilliant framework that would suit so well my inner-comprehension of the world.
Riane Eisler, with The Chalice and the Blade, revisits history, from prehistory through our time, with a feminist and critical perspective. She also tries to create a new language to talk about the duality humanity faces, and I will try to use this new language myself in the future.
This post is not an attempt at writing a synthesis of this book, but I shall leave here the Wikipedia page on the theory developed in it, since I think it is well constructed. But if we want to sum up the main ideas, Eisler suggests namely that :
- the nature of humanity’s history is cyclical, as in we are oscillating between two models of culture/society
- those two models would be the domination model (patriarchy) and the partnership model (matriarchy), which is translated in French in modèle d’association
- but to interpreted that as a war on gender is not productive (and not accurate), therefore Eisler creates new words to describe patriarchy and matriarchy, respectively andocraty and gylany.
- to think outside the gender limitation, she put the emphasis on the symbolism of the chalice and the blade : whereas the chalice gives life the blade take it, and we have been in a society ‘‘ruled by the blade’’ for a while now
- with archeological data, she suggests that past society that were labelled as matriarchy were not truly ruled by women, but closer to her partnership model where everybody is equal
- she also suggests that utopian society like the lost city of Atlantis probably existed (it would have been the Mycenaean people ), and that therefore we can expect society to reach “utopian standards” in the real world
That’s enough bullet points for today. But I haven’t reached the most interesting part in my opinion, at least, the most interesting part for my intellectual revolutionary pursuit.
In her work, she portrays women as an historical force porteur du flambeau of the partnership model. And for the domination model to thrive they had no choice but to repress manifestation of this alternative vision, and that could explain why women suffered so much throughout history. She states that period of peace and of cultural development must have been followed by a belligerent period namely in an attempt of the domination model to reaffirm his superiority in glorifying its values, namely courage, competitiveness and strength.
Because the thing is, according to Leisler, that to have a strong domination model, (toxic) masculinity must be strongly valued in one’s society. And this is the idea that sparked the most excitement in me.
I always was into the “queer cause”, but I remember a moment while I was very involved in environmental activism I thought that it was pointless to “advocate for such issues if the world is going to die (because of climate changes) anyway”, thought that I totally discard today. But reading Leiser’s book was like an ah-ah moment allowing me to connect yet another dot in the schema of the complex world we live in.
Even if identity politics aren’t unanimously considered pertinent or powerful enough to promote big-scale social changes, Leisler’s idea bring an interesting take on it. To personally refuse the gender binary, or the stereotypes link to genders, is one piece in the puzzle of shattering everything to the ground. And I already said it, but will say it again : diversity of tactics is essential. It makes me happy to be able to picture my own struggle and micro-rebellious acts as part of a bigger guerrilla machine.
So I just let the seed sink in : I am looking forward deepening this idea, but for now I am very excited to continue to explore Riane Eisler’s theory. I borrowed her The Real Wealth of Nations : Creating a Caring Economics, which sounds capitalistic, but The Chalice and the Blade showed me anarchy occupies a place in her heart, therefore I should probably not worry too much.
EDIT 30/07/2020: I have found in the The Real Wealth of Nations a quote that summarize well the concepts of the domination system and partnership system :
In the domination system, there are only two alternatives for relations : dominating or being dominated. Those on top control those below them — be it in families, workplace, or society at large. Economic policies and practices in this system are designed to benefit those on top at the expense of those on the bottom. Trust is scarce and tension is high, as the whole system is largely held together by fear and force.
To maintain rankings of domination, caring and empathy have to be suppressed and devalued, beginning in families and from there to economics and politics. This is why one of the foundations for a caring econimics consists of beliefs and institutions that orient more to the partnership system.
The partnership system supports mutualy respectufl and caring relations. There are still hierarchies, as there must be to get things done. But in these hierarchies, which I call hierarchies of actualization rather than hierarchies of domination, accoutability and respect flow both ways rather than just from the bottom up, and social end economic structures are set up so that there is input from all levels. Leaders and managers facilitate, inspire, and empower rather than control and disempower. Economic policies and practices in this system are designed to support our basic survival needs and ours needs for community, creativity, meaning, and caring — in other words, the realization of our highest human potentials.
This idea of hierarchies of actualization echoes with some of the stuff I was saying in Internet, subcultures, autonomous zones and narratives.