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Research Shows That Caring—Not Greed—is Humanity's Default Tendency


We Can Build More Humane and Sustainable Societies by Shifting Environments that Shape Our Brains Say Renowned Social Scientist Riane Eisler and Noted Anthropologist Douglas P. Fry in New Book Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives and Future, Praised by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, First Partner of California

Releases August 14, 2019 (Oxford University Press)

Everywhere we turn, from the news to books and movies, we are bombarded with the same hackneyed message: human nature is inherently bad. Just look at all the greed, murder, rape, war. We are genetically wired, it seems, for selfish, cruel behavior.

Or are we?

Challenging the notion that violence and greed are just “human nature,” Riane Eisler—International bestselling author of The Chalice and the Blade, social systems scientist and cultural historian—provides evidence that caring behavior is actually humanity’s default tendency, and that we can build more humane and sustainable societies.

Her new book with anthropologist Douglas P. Fry, Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future (Oxford University Press, 2019) explains why, and how. It reveals relationships between climate change denial and strong-man rule, fear-and-force based discipline of children and warfare, subordination of women and racism (and other forms of discrimination). And with the causes revealed in these relationships and others, more creative solutions are possible.

Neuroscience shows that the human brain is flexible. Through the interaction between genes and our lived experience, behavior patterns become woven into our individual and social fabric over time. To move toward the pro-social, cooperative, nurturing behavior (that brain scans show we are inclined toward) requires a shift from a system of “domination” to one of “partnership.”

In a domination system – whether Eastern or Western, ancient or modern – family, economic, and social structures support rigid top-down rankings. Historical examples are Genghis Khan’s, Hitler’s, or Stalin’s rule of terror and the autocratic family patriarch of earlier times. Nowadays, we see it in despotic rulers such as the religious heads of ISIS or a secular Kim Jong-un, and at the family level in abusive parental behavior.

In contrast, relations in partnership-oriented societies are based on mutual respect, accountability, and caring, and what Eisler calls hierarchies of actualization rather than domination. We see examples in cultures as varied as the peaceful La Paz Zapotec of Mexico where neither men nor women fit the roles of the domination pattern, demonstrating that boys can be raised to be caring and nonviolent; in the peaceful Minangkabau of Sumatra, where gender equity goes along with high valuing of caring for people and nature; and in European nations such as Sweden, Finland, and Norway, where women and men are partners, laws prohibit physical violence against children, and low poverty and crime rates and a generally high standard of living prevail.

The system we live in—whether it orients to domination or partnership—shapes politics, economics and other institutions, which in turn are inextricably interconnected with how we construct childhood and gender roles and relations. Indeed, what children experience and observe early on directly impacts how our brains develop – and how people feel, think, and act – including how they vote.

Nurturing Our Humanity shows connections that were invisible until now. Its multidisciplinary approach brings together findings from psychology, sociology, economics, and history with new evidence from neuroscience, systems analysis, anthropology, and gender studies to provide a blueprint for cultural transformation from domination to partnership. The book re-examines vital aspects of our lives, from sex, love, intimacy, parenting, and romance to human rights, social justice, politics, economics, violence, and values. It sheds new light on climate change denial, scapegoating, authoritarianism, and racism, and reframes contemporary disputes about biological and cultural evolution, economics, national and international politics, religious fundamentalism, and the uses and potential abuses of technological breakthroughs.

Other topics the book explores include:

  • Why the “women’s work” of caring for people, starting in childhood, has been devalued – and how to change this.
  • Why communist and socialist ideologies can’t save us—and what can.
  • The science behind how experience impacts our biology, and vice versa.
  • The how-to of “partnership parenting” and how all relationships are influenced by touch.
  • How violence and domination were normalized in sexuality, and why this is so dangerous.
  • Why people conform to authority, and how systems of domination are held in place.

Upending age-old assumptions about human nature, Nurturing Our Humanity shows how we can bring about change that is deep, thorough, and courageous. It gives us the roadmap to a more peaceful, egalitarian, gender-balanced, and environmentally sustainable future.

Advance Praise for Nurturing Our Humanity

"In a world that feels ever more dangerous, divided, and out of balance, Nurturing Our Humanity outlines the roadmap for how we raise a healthier generation of children and move away from a punitive and domination based society to a world that leads with partnership-where empathy, care, and community are valued above all, and each can fulfill our full human potential." —Jennifer Siebel Newsom, First Partner of California, Filmmaker

"This is the book for our time! Eisler and Fry have put their minds and hearts together to provide an integrative vision of how humanity's cooperative nature can be nurtured and supported... Everyone should read this book... so together we can re-envision our future!" —Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology, University of Notre Dame

"This fearless, beautiful, and very timely book is a radical reminder that humanity's truest nature is oriented toward love, partnership, gender equality, and peace. It is essential and transformative reading for every policymaker, philanthropist, activist, and change-maker interested in a more just, balanced, and peaceful world." —Jennifer Buffett, Co-President, NoVo Foundation

"This path-breaking book goes beyond the conventional divides hurting today's civilizations... It is essential that the virtues of partnership get stronger and the vices of domination are controlled." —Ernst von Weizsäcker, Honorary President, Club of Rome

"Nurturing Our Humanity explores the capacity for human happiness and its relationship to the development of sustainable cultures at a political and environmental point in history when we need it the most." —James McClintock, Author, Lost Antarctica

"Eisler and Fry show how we lived without war thousands of years ago, and how we can do so again. This groundbreaking book should be required reading for all world leaders and decision makers." —Sarah Parcak, Author, Archaeology from Space    

Riane Eisler

RIANE EISLER is a social systems scientist, cultural historian, and attorney whose research, writing, and speaking has transformed the lives of people worldwide. She is President of the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) and Editor-in-Chief of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies. A refugee from Nazi Europe as a child, she has addressed the UN General Assembly, the US Department of State and Congressional Briefings, and authored over 500 articles published in outlets including The Christian Science Monitor, Human Rights Quarterly, and International Journal of Women's Studies. Her book The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future is an international bestseller.

Order the book at a 30% discount directly from the publisher

Title: Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future

Authors: Riane Eisler, Douglas P. Fry Print: $35.00

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0190935723

ISBN-13: 978-0190935726

More information: Contact Emily Adams:

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Riane Eisler, CPS Founder

Internationally known as author of The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, Eisler is a scholar, author, educator, cultural change leader, social systems scientist, and recipient of many honors. Read more about Riane Eisler:  

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