was strong-man rule, be it in the family or in the state. And it was absolute, authoritarian rule. So in Iran the Mullahs will tell you that they have the only direct telephone line to God, and you had better listen to them–or else. This dominator configuration of rigid male dominance, a high degree of institutionalized violence, and strong-man or authoritarian rule in both the family and state is discernible in very different societies and groups. In the United States, you see the same kind of configuration in the rightist-fundamentalist alliance. “Get women back into their ‘traditional’ (a code word for subservient) place.” And a lot of emphasis on “holy wars” and on strict obedience to “divinely ordained” commands. But it isn’t only that war is holy in the religious sense in the dominator model. The Nazis thought war was holy–because war is holy in the dominator model. That’s why I chose the title The Chalice and The Blade–the blade becomes the highest power.
RMN: And the partnership model?
RIANE: As you move towards the partnership or gylanic model, you see the opposite configuration. You see power equated more with the chalice–with the power to give, rather than take, life. You also see a more equal partnership between the female and male halves of humanity. And you see a more democratic, more equitable system and a far lower degree of institutionalized violence. It isn’t that there’s no violence. But there’s a very big difference, which is that in the partnership or gylanic model, male identity is not equated with domination and conquest–be it of women, other men, other nations, or nature. And violence and abuse are not institutionalized in parent-child relations and in other human relations. One of the characteristics of the partnership model, as evidenced by prehistoric societies that we are now rediscovering, is that they had what we today would call an ecological consciousness—a real reverence for nature, which they venerated in the form of a Great Goddess. So the contemporary ecology movement is a very important partnership or gylanic trend with its growing understanding that we need to respect, rather than conquer, Mother Nature. There are all over the world today many partnership trends. If you look at the Scandinavian nations, you find the strongest movement toward an integrated partnership configuration beginning to come together. In the first place, there is a more equal partnership between women and men. For example, in the Norwegian government, women constitute approximately forty percent of Parliament. (Compare this to the less than six percent in the United States Congress or none in rigid dominator regimes like Saudi Arabia.) Moreover, this goes along with a more equitable and democratic distribution of wealth–one that did not devolve into the Soviet Union’s dominator form of socialism. There is also the fact that the Scandinavians boast the first peace academies and some of the groundbreaking work in human rights. And Scandinavian countries evidence more “feminine” values in their social governance–with a consequent emphasis not so much on technologies of destruction (weaponry) but on health, education, and welfare, as well as the environment (in other words on “women’s” work such as caring and cleaning). When you think about it, we’re what’s known as a dimorphic species, a species composed of two halves. It should therefore come as no surprise to anybody that the way that a society structures this fundamental relationship makes a tremendous difference.
DAVID L: An interesting thing to me is that when you confront a lot of social scientists with this idea that everything boils down to two models– they may not say this openly– but what’s going on in the back of their heads, is that’s just too simplistic. They tend to discount the idea on that ground. But I’ve looked at a broad range of phenomena in light of Riane’s fundamental insight, and it is that simple. The term, incidentally, partnership, is actually one I came up with. Riane was using the terms “androcratic” and “gylanic.” It was pointed out by a friend of ours, the futurist writer Bob Jungk, that somewhat more accessible terms were needed for broad appeal.
DJB: Does your dominator-partnership model of human evolution require a revision in Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which assumes that competitive and selfish reproductive success is the driving force in evolution, or do you think, perhaps, that symbiosis and cooperation could be viewed as a, or the, driving force in evolution?
RIANE: My book is very different in its basic assumptions and findings from Darwin’s, and particularly from how Darwin has been popularly interpreted. It isn’t like if species A survives, species B has to die. That’s not how evolution works. As a matter of fact, most of the world’s ecosystem demonstrates a far more synergistic and symbiotic relationship between many species. And of course the great danger with that totally competitive dog-eat-dog approach, which is the dominator system approach, is that it is now, at our level of technology, not only threatening our species with extinction, but it’s threatening all species. Although I have to clarify here that there is also competition in the partnership system, just as there’s also cooperation in the dominator system. But it’s a different kind of competition and cooperation. For example, in the dominator model men cooperate to go to war, to better dominate or destroy. So the answer is not just cooperation. The issue is cooperation in the context of a partnership or dominator society. That extreme conquest-oriented dominator competition is truly not adaptive. I am not a biologist, so I can only tell you that my work is more in line with new interpretations by biologists and evolutionary scholars, that the Darwinian model at best deals with only part of the picture. The biologist Humberto Maturana in Chile, for example, is very much involved in that kind of work. DAVID L: Ashley Montagu characterizes the difference by saying that it isn’t survival of the fittest, it’s the survival of the fit. This has the implication that it isn’t this dog-eat-dog battle for only one survivor out of many. It’s the survival of the fit, and you can define the fit in many different ways, including the way that Riane is defining it. DIANE: But I want to make a distinction here. Cultural transformation theory deals with cultural evolution. Also, we tend to think of evolution as a linear upward movement. But not even biological evolution is like that. And certainly not cultural evolution or technological evolution. For example, if you look at technology, Minoan Crete (which was one of the last known prehistoric societies orienting largely to the partnership model) had very advanced technology, including indoor plumbing. This got lost until the Romans. Then it got lost again until very recent times. There may be a striving in our species towards ever higher cultural and technological development, but that striving will have to contend with the fact that there are other movements going on. What cultural transformation theory posits, in a nutshell, is that the original thrust of our cultural evolution, the first civilizations, developed in areas where the earth was hospitable, fertile. As we began to develop agriculture, in the mainstream of our cultural evolution, we moved in a partnership direction. But the evidence indicates that there was in our prehistory a period of tremendous system disequilibrium, when there was a fundamental shift in direction. We are now learning from non-linear and chaos theory that from the fringes of a system you can have a peripheral invader that comes in and changes the whole structure very quickly–what seems to be a small perturbation, in terms of Prigogine’s language. These small perturbations become nucleations for a new system. The same process seems to have occurred in our cultural evolution. There were peripheral invaders that during our prehistory came in from the barren steppes of the north and the arid deserts of the south and we saw a shift toward the dominator model of society. And for five thousand years we’ve been on this course. I think of it sometimes as a dominator detour. But the dominator model clearly is a choice for us as a species. Now, as we approach the twenty-first century, we are in another period of tremendous systems disequilibrium. Nothing less than our survival as a species is now animating a very powerful partnership thrust. Again it’s from the fringes, from the periphery of the system, that so-called leading-edge thinkers, theorists, and researchers, the leaders in the so-called new consciousness, are emerging. But the dominator system is still very entrenched. However, we wouldn’t be talking here right now if there weren’t already a lot of changed consciousness. We have an opportunity now, in this period of great system disequilibrium, for another shift. We’re already on the road towards a partnership society. But the question is: can we complete that shift in time? One of my findings is that at a certain level of technological development the dominator system literally goes into self-destruct. The blade is the nuclear bomb. Even nature is rebelling against man’s conquest of nature in acid rain, in air and water pollution. The message is clear: it is as if nature were saying to us, you either reconnect with your ancient partnership roots, or I’ll find myself another species, perhaps another planet. Because we’re doing so much intrinsic damage.
RMN: There’s an ideology in current circulation that humanity is evolving toward a mutual expression of agape or fraternal, unconditional love, from eros, the kind of love associated with desire and sexuality, and that we are