What is Real Wealth?

Real Wealth Is:

The conventional view is that wealth consists of money, possessions, and property. We certainly need some of these to survive. But the real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and of nature. This is particularly true in our knowledge-service age, when “high quality human capital” is key to economic success. We need what we have not had: an economic system that gives visibility and value to the work of caring for people and for our Mother Earth.

This is the goal of the Caring Economy Campaign, which has been a priority initiative of CPS since 2009.

Riane Eisler on Caring Economics

To build a new economic reality, we have to work together to change the rules of the economic game. This is the theme of Eisler's book The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics.

A new, updated version of the chapter summaries “The Real Wealth of Nations: Caring Economy Tools for Change Makers” offers a detailed look at the Caring Economics model.

Some people in the U.S. think that the next generation will be the first to NOT surpass the current generation’s wealth–and by that, they mean the accumulation of money, possessions, and property. However, we have to ask, were we really wealthy? Financial wealth can quickly disappear, as we see every day as stock markets see-saw up and down in a matter of seconds.

What many people are discovering is that the current financial wealth system often comes at the expense of our children, our families, communities, and the planet. They are waking up to a new definition of wealth. We need an economic system that make it possible to have healthy food, good housing, enriching schools, natural and recreational space, and a sense of community and meaning in our lives.

Study after study shows that what people truly find most valuable are relationships, service, and a sense of purpose. Of course we need food, water, a roof over our heads, and other material support. But that is not all we need -- and the current economic system does not support or give value to caring for people, starting in early childhood, and caring for our Mother Earth. We can, and must, change this! We can have an economic system that meets everyone's material needs and makes it possible for us to have time and energy for our children, our communities, and ourselves.

Video on The Real Wealth of Nations: Excerpt from Riane Eisler Keynote at Women Employed

Economic Systems Can Change

Throughout the human journey, economic systems have changed. This is a normal (yet chaotic!) event. We are at the end of the industrial/consumer economy and moving into the knowledge/service/caring economy. It's time to be proactive, expand the rules for this new economy and create the solutions we need for the 21st century.

We Have a Choice

We have a choice. We can keep complaining about greed, fraud, and cutthroat business practices. We can put up with the daily stress of unsuccessfully juggling jobs and family. We can tell ourselves there's nothing we can do about policies that damage our natural environment, create huge gaps between haves and have-nots, and lead to untold suffering. Or we can join together to help construct a saner, sounder, more caring economics and culture. ~ Riane Eisler

Based on the ideas outlined in The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, the next phase of the human journey can be a shift from the domination system prevailing over the last 5,000 years to a partnership system. This lays the foundation for a Caring Economics.

Eisler's work--from the Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future to The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics has meticulously documented the history of the human journey and how social systems have changed over time. Today we have a choice --we can examine our history, see what has worked, what hasn't ,and then design a system that works for all.

It’s time for a new economy. Whats next?

  • Partnership Values
  • Caring Economics
  • Full Spectrum Economy

Based on the ideas outlined in The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, the next phase of the human journey can be a shift from the domination system prevailing over the last 10,000 years to a partnership system. This lays the foundation for a Caring Economics.

Eisler's work--from the Chalice and the Blade all the way up to The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics has meticulously documented the history of the human journey and how systems have changed over time. Change is the natural order of life--and today we have a choice that has never been possible before--we can examine our history, see what has worked, what hasn't and then design a system that works for all.

Can’t we do better than this? Yes, we can!

A little history of where we’ve been

Our species has been in existence for many millennia -- living in small tribal groups. Like that of most contemporary foraging societies, the prehistoric foraging economy was primarily based on cooperation and mutual support. It was the earliest "caring economy," and it was necessary for survival.
Even later, the archeological record shows that in many of our early farming cultures and as late as the Minoan civilization that flourished until 5,000 years ago on the Mediterranean island of Crete, human cultural evolution was in a partnership direction. Women and men were partners, there were no massive inequalities in buildings or “grave goods,” and no signs of destruction through warfare. These were not ideal societies, but they show that we can live in greater harmony with one another and nature.

Farming and the security of sufficient and consistently available food enabled the rise of larger populations living in permanent locations. Contrary to popular beliefs that farming brought warfare, the archaeological record indicates that for thousands of years these early agrarian communities lived in relative peace. Catal Huyuk in Turkey, for example, lasted a thousand years with no signs of war.

But then there was a dramatic shift as documented in The Chalice and The Blade, Sacred Pleasure, and other books based on the work of many scholars. We begin to see archeological evidence of incursions from nomadic herding tribes who brought a very different way of life. In Europe, we see for the first time “chieftain graves” with sacrificed women, children, and horses buried with a large male skeleton. We also see the gradual disappearance of female figures in the art (figures typically associate with life-giving), as well as images such as those of Minoan Crete of women in positions of leadership. Instead, we see the glorification of warriors, chieftains, and kings, with images showing battles and “hallowed leaders” lording it over their “subjects.”

This was the start of domination economics, as tribes and later city-states sought to secure their place while eliminating others who threatened them. There was some movement toward partnership in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, but it too was heavily based on domination values as reflected in the two major modern economic theories of capitalism and socialism, neither of which recognized the value of caring for nature and people, which were relegated to “reproductive” rather than “productive” work.

Today, the mix of high technology with an ethos of domination and conquest is threatening not only environmental devastation, but destruction through nuclear or biological weaponry. The old "normal" is not sustainable. We must create an economy that values caring for people and nature: a caring economy.

A Caring Economics is for You

If any of these statements ring true, please join us to build a new economic system based on caring for humans and the planet.

  • You're frustrated with the current economic system.
  • You believe that our children are our most important asset.
  • You feel that our society should give more value and support to caring for and educating children.
  • You believe that the growing gap between “haves” and “have nots” is unacceptable.
  • You believe that our current economic course is contributing to global warming and other environmental crises.
  • You believe that an economy based on "consumerism” leads to excess and waste.
  • You recognize that businesses should be accountable for their impact on our environment, communities, employees, and other stakeholders.
  • You believe that we must give our business and government leaders information and perspectives that will help them make ethical and sustainable policies.
  • You believe that all human beings deserve a good quality of life and that we owe the next generations a sustainable economy.
  • You are convinced that the work of parents, teachers, and caregivers is critical to the well-being of our society now and in the future.
  • You recognize that businesses should be accountable for their impact on our environment, communities, employees, and other stakeholders.
  • You believe that women and stereotypically-feminine activities, such as caregiving, must be valued and rewarded.
  • You want to make a difference in your community and the world.

Taking Action

Caring Economy Campaign

The Caring Economy Campaign (CEC) brings together a coalition of organizations and individuals working to end cycles of poverty, empower women, care for children, and promote prosperity, economic justice, and security for all by showing the enormous economic value of caring for people, starting in early childhood, and caring for nature. Its Social Wealth Economic Indicators (SWEIs) are unique new metrics that empirically demonstrate the urgent need for the United States to catch up with other developed nations in policies that invest in caring for and educating people, such as paid parental and sick leave and high quality early childhood education, as well as the business benefits from providing such policies.

Join our Caring Economy Campaign and help CPS in making the invisible visible as we look to the future.

Caring Economy Community Advocates Program

CEC_Mother&SonThe Community Advocates Program is an online certification course which prepares leaders from around the world to take local action to make the work of caring and caregiving more visible and valued. The program has trained hundreds of community advocates from 18 different countries around the world to lead a new conversation about economics in their home communities. The Community Advocates Program brings together coaches, educators, business leaders, policy makers, community activists, parents, spiritual leaders, writers and filmmakers to engage deeply with the principles of a Caring Economy, network with other leaders from around the world, and gain the language, data and tools they need to speak out with confidence about the vital economic role of care and caregiving.

View the Program

Social Wealth Economic Indicators

CPS developed Social Wealth Economic Indicators (SWEIs) to provide the missing building blocks for a more sustainable and caring economy. Unlike conventional measures of economic health such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), SWEIs demonstrate the substantial financial return from caring for people and nature – and the enormous costs of not doing so. They show that the U.S. lags behind other nations in investing in this essential work, and point the way to more effective government, business, and civil society investments. SWEIs are vital tools for shifting public policy in healthier, more realistic directions.

View Indicators

Join the Caring Economy Campaign Coalition

United we stand, divided we fall? There’s strength in numbers? They’re clichés because they’re true. This time of economic turmoil also offers potential for exponential change. We’re at a pivotal moment in our evolution toward a more caring human community. Working together, we can move our organizations’ shared agendas forward to more effectively and rapidly influence public policy—building a more just, sustainable, and caring future. Join us! See how to get involved and learn about others that have! Watch a webinar, and read our charter and guiding principles! As a coalition committed individuals and diverse, grassroots, research, educational, business, environmental, faith-based, and other organizations, CEC will powerfully influence our economic and social policies at the federal, state and local levels.

Join the Coalition

Starting a Study Group

Many community groups, including book clubs, use Eisler's work to teach and learn about partnership systems. This link includes some valuable resources from Riane Eisler's site.

Create a Study Group

Articles & Reports

Economics as if Caring Matters

Why is caring for children not a more central part of economic models? Caring is essential for human survival and development. Yet caring is undervalued and underpaid. A caring economy calls for a different model of sustainable growth and development as described in this article from the journal Challenge.

Poverty and Women in the U.S.

Unpaid and Undervalued Care Work Keeps Women on the Brink

This article, published in the 2014 Shriver Report, shows that a major reason that one-third of American women either live in poverty or on its brink, is the failure of U.S. policies to support care work.

Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life

The status of women can be a better predictor of a nation’s general quality of life than GDP--so found the 1995 CPS study Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life (by Riane Eisler, David Loye, and Kari Norgaard), which examines statistical data from 89 nations.

Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life, published in 1995 in time for the Beijing United Nations Women’s Conference, shows why we need new economic measurements—economic indicators that take into account the social construction of gender roles and relations as a key variable in how a society develops and allocates its resources.

This CPS study supports the common sense conclusion that gender equity or inequity (that is, systematic discrimination and violence against women and female children) is a major factor for overall quality of life, not only for women, but also for men and children of both genders.

The New Economic Visionaries: The Caring Economy

By Riane Eisler, World Pulse Magazine, November 2009

Read the Article

A Full-Spectrum Job Creation Proposal

This report proposes that investment in the real wealth of our nation – its people – is essential to stimulate our economy, help families, radically reduce poverty and violence, reward women’s economic contributions, save billions in crime and prisons, and produce the “high quality human capital” needed for our post-industrial economy. The Full-Spectrum Job-Creation Proposal was presented to President Obama and used by U.S. policy makers in drafting their final 2009 job creation program.

Read the Article


It Pays to Care – In Dollars & Cents: The Business Return on Investment in Caring

Hundreds of statistical studies and case histories document the dollars-and-cents benefits of businesses investing in their real bottom line: the health and welfare of people.

In Leveraging the New Human Capital, Sandra Burud and Marie Tumolo showcase studies showing that childcare, flexible work hours, and paid family leave have a high return on investment (ROI).

  • Chase Manhattan’s investment in backup childcare services for employees yielded a 115 percent ROI, saving the company 6,900 workdays in just one year.
  • American Express had $40 million in increased sales productivity when it introduced telecommuting; Aetna had a 30 percent increase in claims processed after employees began working from home.
  • Firms offering paid parental leave had 2.5 percent higher profits than firms that did not.
  • Companies on Working Mothers’ list of 100 best companies for employed mothers (which have child care benefits, flexible scheduling, telecommuting, and other caring policies) had high customer satisfaction ratings — and this translated into a 3-11% market value increase, or $22,000 per employee.
  • Companies rated by Fortune as the best places to work also yielded shareholder returns on investment of 27.5%, much higher than the Russell 3000 stocks, which only had average returns of 17.3%.

Caring Strategies Reduce Employee Turnover and Absenteeism

Caring business policies sharply reduce employee turnover, saving companies millions of dollars.

  • The cost of replacing hourly employees is about six months of their earnings.
  • The cost of replacing salaried employees can be as high as 18 months of their salary.
  • Job turnover can cost employers as much as 40 percent of annual profits.

This doesn’t even take into account that between 30 and 40 percent of employees planning to leave have already checked out mentally and emotionally, focusing instead on their next jobs rather than their current ones.

There are also high business costs from absenteeism, which is often the direct result of workers’ family responsibilities. For instance, Chemical Bank discovered that 52% of employee absences were caused by family-related issues. Businesses that have more caring policies radically cut turnover and absentee related losses.

  • Intermedics, Inc. decreased their turnover rate by 37% with on-site childcare, saving 15,000 work hours and $2 million dollars.
  • Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle reported 0% turnover among employees using its on-site child care center, compared to about 23% turnover among other workers.
  • Johnson & Johnson found that absenteeism among employees who used flexible work options and family leave policies was an average of 50% less than for the workforce as a whole.

A Radcliffe survey found that 83% of women and 82% of men aged 21-29 put having time to spend with their families at the top of their priority list, way ahead of a high salary and a prestigious job.
The number of caregivers in the workforce will rise even more dramatically as Americans age. By 2020 the U.S. over-50 population will increase 74% compared to 1% for those under 50. Polls show that 54% of U.S. workers anticipate caring for an elderly parent or relative in the next 10 years.

Other studies have documented company savings from investment in wellness and fitness programs.

  • Pepsi’s Fitness program produced a return of investment of $3.00 for every $1.00 invested (a stunning 300% ROI).
  • Johnson & Johnson’s Corporate Wellness Program saved the company an average of $225 per employee per year in reduced hospital admissions, mental health visits, and outpatient services, even after deducting the cost of paying employees to participate.
  • Steelcase benefitted from 55% lower medical claims for participants in their wellness program over six years.
  • Applied Materials’ Fitness Center participants had medical payments that were one fifth lower and accident-related disability costs that were a third lower than non-participants. In addition, its workers compensation costs per claim were 79% lower for participants in the program.

Business Benefits from Paid Parental Leave: A Resource to Promote Caring Business Policies

  • Women and men are more likely to stay in the workforce
  • Businesses save money on employee replacement costs as paid parental leave reduces turnover
  • Firms often benefit in improved morale and cost-savings
  • Caring policies reduce absenteeism

It also describes benefits to families, society, and the economy.

Read and use: “Making the Case for Paid Parental Leave”

Webinars on Caring Business

CEC's Leadership Series webinars provide trainings on caring business policies.

Characteristics of Caring Businesses, Even Small Ones

In Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun (2006), Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick show how even small businesses with limited resources can derive enormous benefits from caring policies. Drawing from their own business experiences in Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Mal Warwick and Associates, as well as from those of hundreds of other small companies, they focus on 5 basic relationships:

  1. Relations with employees
  2. Relations with suppliers
  3. Relations with customers
  4. Relations with the community
  5. Relations with the natural environment

In addition to good employee benefits, Ben and Mal emphasize the importance of participatory management styles and profit sharing plans that further ensure that employees feel they have a real share in the company’s success.

Many materials in this section are adapted from The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economy.