The Real Wealth of Nations

Creating a Caring Economics

Riane Eisler (Author)

Publication date: 11/10/2008

The Real Wealth of Nations
Proposes a dramatic new model of "caring economics" that helps resolve many of the critical problems we face today. Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations provided the first, most influential and lasting explanation of the workings of modern economics. But with his focus on "the market" as the best mechanism for producing and distributing the necessities of life, Smith's concepts only told part of the story, leading to flawed economic models that devalue activities that fall outside of the market's parameters of buying and selling. The real wealth of nations, Riane Eisler argues, is not merely financial, but includes the contributions of people and our natural environment. Here, Eisler goes beyond the market to reexamine economics from a larger perspective--and shows that we must give visibility and value to the socially and economically essential work of caring for people and the planet if we are to meet the enormous challenges we are facing.

Eisler proposes a new "caring economics" that takes into account the full spectrum of economic activities--from the life--sustaining activities of the household, to the life-enriching activities of caregivers and communities, to the life-supporting processes of nature. She shows how our values are distorted by the economic double standard that devalues anything stereotypically associated with women and femininity; reveals how current economic models are based on a deep-seated culture of domination; and shows how human needs would be better served by economic models based on caring. Most importantly, she provides practical proposals for new economic inventions--new measures, policies, rules, and practices--to bring about a caring economics that fulfills human needs.

Like her classic The Chalice and the Blade, The Real Wealth of Nations is a bold and insightful look at how to create a society in which each of us can achieve the full measure of our humanity.
  • From the author of the bestselling classic The Chalice and the Blade (over 500,000 sold)
  • Proposes a dramatic new economic model that could help resolve many of the most critical problems we face today
  • Offers concrete steps for putting this model into practice

Read more and meet author below

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Overview

Proposes a dramatic new model of "caring economics" that helps resolve many of the critical problems we face today. Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations provided the first, most influential and lasting explanation of the workings of modern economics. But with his focus on "the market" as the best mechanism for producing and distributing the necessities of life, Smith's concepts only told part of the story, leading to flawed economic models that devalue activities that fall outside of the market's parameters of buying and selling. The real wealth of nations, Riane Eisler argues, is not merely financial, but includes the contributions of people and our natural environment. Here, Eisler goes beyond the market to reexamine economics from a larger perspective--and shows that we must give visibility and value to the socially and economically essential work of caring for people and the planet if we are to meet the enormous challenges we are facing.

Eisler proposes a new "caring economics" that takes into account the full spectrum of economic activities--from the life--sustaining activities of the household, to the life-enriching activities of caregivers and communities, to the life-supporting processes of nature. She shows how our values are distorted by the economic double standard that devalues anything stereotypically associated with women and femininity; reveals how current economic models are based on a deep-seated culture of domination; and shows how human needs would be better served by economic models based on caring. Most importantly, she provides practical proposals for new economic inventions--new measures, policies, rules, and practices--to bring about a caring economics that fulfills human needs.

Like her classic The Chalice and the Blade, The Real Wealth of Nations is a bold and insightful look at how to create a society in which each of us can achieve the full measure of our humanity.

  • From the author of the bestselling classic The Chalice and the Blade (over 500,000 sold)
  • Proposes a dramatic new economic model that could help resolve many of the most critical problems we face today
  • Offers concrete steps for putting this model into practice

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Riane Eisler

Riane Eisler is president of the Center for Partnership Studies and the author of The Chalice and the Blade, Sacred Pleasure, Tomorrow's Children, and The Power of Partnership. Dr. Eisler is a pioneer in the study of complex systems and the recipient of many honors, including the Humanist Pioneer Award and membership in the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality., the World Futures Council, and the Club of Rome.  She is Editor in Chief of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies at the University of Minnesota, inspired by her work. Her newest book, Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships won both national and international awards. Her The Real Wealth of Nations was hailed by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu as "a template for the better world that we have been so urgently seeking" and inspired the Caring Economy Campaign and the development of Social Wealth Economic Indicators. Find out more at www.RianeEisler.com.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Reasons to Care

CHAPTER ONE
We Need a New Economics

CHAPTER TWO
Economics Through a Wider Lens

CHAPTER THREE
It Pays to Care—in Dollars and Cents

CHAPTER FOUR
The Economic Double Standard

CHAPTER FIVE
Connecting the Dots

CHAPTER SIX
The Economics of Domination

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Economics of Partnership

CHAPTER EIGHT
Technology, Work, and the Postindustrial Era

CHAPTER NINE
Who We Are and Where We Are

CHAPTER TEN
The Caring Revolution

NOTES
BIBLIOGRAPHY
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
INDEX
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR
PARTNERSHIP STUDIES

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Excerpt

Reasons to Care

Much of my life has been a quest. This quest started in my childhood, when my parents and I fled my native Vienna from the Nazis. It continued in the slums of Havana, where we found refuge, and later in the United States, where I grew up. It was a quest for answers to a basic question: Why, when we humans have such a great capacity for caring, consciousness, and creativity, has our world seen so much cruelty, insensitivity, and destructiveness?

In the course of my quest I looked for answers in many areas, from psychology, history, and anthropology to education, economics, and politics. And again and again I came back to economics because I saw that we have to change present economic systems if we, our children, and future generations are to survive and thrive.

As time went on, and I had children and then grandchildren, the passion animating my quest intensified. So also did my focus on economics.

As I looked at my grandchildren, I couldn't help thinking of the millions of children in our world, all born with a hunger for life, love, and joy, condemned to untimely deaths or lives of unnecessary suffering. As I reflected on the pristine beauty of our oceans and the grandeur of the coastal cities where so many of us live, I thought of the threats from climate changes caused by current economic rules and practices. As I took in the reality around me every day, I saw the stress of families vainly trying to find time for one another, and the pain of people displaced by new technologies that should have been used to improve our lives instead. And again I came back to economics.

2
I saw that in our inextricably interconnected world none of us has a secure future so long as hunger, extreme poverty, and violence continue unabated. I saw that present economic systems are despoiling and depleting our beautiful Earth. I saw that there is something fundamentally wrong with economic rules and practices that fail to adequately value the most essential human work: the work of caring for ourselves, others, and our Mother Earth.

Gradually, I began to explore economics from a new perspective. I saw the need for an economics that, while preserving the best elements of current economic models, takes us beyond them to a way of living, and making a living, that truly meets human needs. I also saw that we need a much broader approach to economics: one that takes into account its larger social and natural context.

I invite you to join me in exploring this new perspective on economics. I ask that you leave behind assumptions that have constricted our view, because what we will look at goes beyond what is usually considered the domain of economics. I also ask that, as you read on, you keep in mind what you most value and want in your own life.

In the pages that follow, we will look at economics through a wider lens that reveals the exciting possibilities of what I call caring economics. I realize that even putting economics and caring in the same sentence is alien to conventional thought. But this is no time for conventional thought. As expressed in popular clichés such as “thinking outside the box,” it is a time that urgently calls for unconventional thought.

With the accelerating speed of economic globalization—when corporations that control international financial and technological flows still play by uncaring rules—the need for a caring economics is more urgent than ever before. This book offers a new vision of what economics is and can be. It provides a starting point from which to rebuild economic structures, practices, and policies in ways that maximize our positive potentials and minimize our negative ones.

I have called this book The Real Wealth of Nations because it shows that our most important economic assets are not financial—that the real wealth of nations consists of the contributions of people and our natural environment. In my choice of this title, I don't mean to imply that I have set out to write a technical treatise on economics such as Adam Smith's classic The Wealth of Nations. To address the needs of our world today, we have to bring together knowledge from many 3areas. I therefore draw from many fields in addition to economics, including advances in both the social and natural sciences. I also propose practical steps for moving both economic and social systems in a positive direction.

The new perspective on economics I am introducing in this book grows out of my research over the past thirty years applying evolutionary systems science to social systems. During this time, I became involved with pioneers in chaos and complexity theory,1 and contributed to many books applying these revolutionary new approaches to the real-world problems of our time.2 In my own books, beginning with The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future, I introduced a new lens for understanding social systems and determining how we can build foundations for a more equitable and sustainable world.

This lens is the analytical framework running through all my books and journal papers: the partnership or mutual respect system and the domination or top-down control system. These social categories are integral to the cultural transformation theory I introduced in earlier books.3 They are also integral to understanding, and changing, dysfunctional economic structures, rules, and practices—which is the focus of this book.

When Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, his focus was on the market, or as he put it, on “the invisible hand of the market” as the best mechanism for producing and distributing the necessities of life.4 This book goes beyond the market to reexamine economics from a larger perspective that includes the life-supporting activities of households, communities, and nature.

Moreover, and this is one of its central themes, this book shows that to construct an economic system that can help us meet the enormous challenges we face, we must give visibility and value to the socially and economically essential work of caring for people and nature. Indeed, if we really think about it, it's unrealistic to expect changes in uncaring economic policies and practices unless caring and caregiving are given greater value.

In the chapters that follow, we will see that moving to a more equitable and sustainable economic system requires attention to the interaction of economic and social systems. We will also see that for this movement to succeed we have to broaden the scope of what has traditionally been considered the domain of economics.

4
We start from the basic premise that economic systems should promote human welfare and human happiness, a premise that seems to have been forgotten in much of today's economic discourse. Drawing from the work of advanced thinkers in economics and many other fields, we then explore exciting new frontiers for work, values, and life.

Chapter 1 takes us beyond the narrow band of economic relations taken into account by conventional models—whether capitalist, socialist, communist, or anarchist. It introduces the first of five foundations for a caring economics: a full-spectrum economic map that includes the life-supporting activities of households, communities, and nature.

Chapter 2 widens the lens through which we look at economics to include its larger cultural context. It takes us to the second foundation for a caring economics: cultural beliefs and institutions that value caring and caregiving. This chapter introduces the socio-economic categories of the partnership system and the domination system, revealing connections not previously considered. It proposes new standards and rules for what is or is not economically valuable. And it shows how all this directly affects our lives and the future of our children and our planet.

The next three chapters introduce three more foundations for a caring economic system: caring economic rules, policies, and practices; inclusive and accurate economic indicators; and economic and social structures that support partnership rather than domination.

These chapters continue to connect the dots between our daily lives, economics, and cultural values and norms. They show how problem-solving, creativity, and entrepreneurship are supported by caring policies and practices, and how this greatly benefits business, people, and our natural environment. They provide a redefinition of productive work appropriate for the postindustrial economy, where the most important capital is what economists like to call human capital. They describe new measurements of productivity that take into account the life-sustaining activities of both households and nature. And they propose ways to protect what economists today call natural capital.

These chapters also take us on a journey into our past. They reassess unhealthy myths and values we inherited. They expose the hidden gender double standard that is our heritage from earlier, more 5unjust and economically inefficient times. They show that this has led to an economic double standard that lies behind unsustainable ways of living and working. And they explore how we can develop healthier alternatives.

Then, in chapter 6, we see the enormous personal, social, financial, and environmental costs of old economic and political systems and their inability to adapt to the challenges we face. In chapter 7, we look at how we can develop a caring economics. This chapter briefly traces the development of modern economic theories in the context of the times out of which they came, and proposes basic principles for the construction of a new conceptual framework that includes the best elements of both capitalism and socialism but goes beyond both.

Chapter 8 looks at postmodern technological breakthroughs such as robotics, biotechnology, and nanotechnology and how they affect both work and life. It introduces a new way of looking at technology that no longer throws everything, from can openers to nuclear bombs, into the same technological basket. It shows that rapid technological change makes a caring economics even more essential in the epochal transition to the postindustrial age.

Chapter 9 then takes us to where we are and where we can go from here. Drawing from arresting new findings from neuroscience, it shows that a caring economics supports the capacities that in the course of evolution made us uniquely human. Finally, chapter 10 proposes practical steps each of us can take to accelerate the move to a more humane, environmentally sustainable, and economically effective future.

I have written this book to invite discussion and action. It is a book for everyone who wants a better life and a better world, and is looking for practical tools to realize these goals. I am confident that together we can build a new economic system that promotes creativity and generosity rather than greed and destructiveness. Indeed, I am convinced that this is the only viable option at this critical juncture in our cultural and planetary evolution.

Riane Eisler
January 2007

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Endorsements

“An essential tool for government leaders, politicians, economists, and everyone looking for ways to halt environmental destruction, eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and build a better future, The Real Wealth of Nations shows us how to construct a sustainable new economy—and a good quality of life for generations to come.”
—The Honorable Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland 1980–1996

“The Real Wealth of Nations is a call for nothing less than a ground shift in consciousness. I urge you to read this profound and important book.”
—Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and Insecure at Last

“In this brilliant new look at economic systems and how they interact with culture, Riane Eisler has created what is sure to be a classic and—hopefully—world-changing book.”
—Thom Hartmann, author of Screwed and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

“Riane Eisler is one of the most important and influential thinkers of our time. In The Real Wealth of Nations she turns her attention to the importance of caring and issues a clarion call for contemporary societies to recognize and value the essential contribution of caregiving to human well-being.”
—David C. Korten, author of The Great Turning and When Corporations Rule the World

“Eisler has done it again—producing an exciting and urgently needed guide to the economic realities that face our society. Those of us who hope for a new direction in dealing with issues like poverty and global warming need to read and re-read Eisler's analysis. The Real Wealth of Nations is a necessary handbook for the 21st century.”
—Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun and author of The Left Hand of God

“The real wealth of nations has always been in people, yet the vast economy of caring (over half of all economic activity globally) is still ignored and unpaid—largely relegated to the world's women. Eisler sets the record straight, showing us an array of new options for creating sustainable, caring societies. Must reading!”
—Hazel Henderson, author of Building a Win-Win World and Ethical Markets

“This is a wonderful, hopeful book, not about where we have been economically, but about the potential for economics to reflect what we truly value—quality of life and quality of the environment.”
—Daniel Kammen, Co-Director, Berkeley Institute of the Environment, University of California

“Why has conventional economics been so slow to offer compelling, useful responses to our most threatening challenges, such as environmental degradation or raging inequalities? Riane Eisler answers this question, and in doing so, reinvents the dis- mal science, infusing it with the essential ingredients it needs to get us out of the terribly narrow box in which we've been stuck.”
—Jared Bernstein, Economic Policy Institute, author of All Together Now

“Riane Eisler speaks from the heart, showing how we can make a better world for our children and our children's children. It is time to love our planet, love our neighbors, and heed Riane's call to action . . . it's time for a caring revolution.”
—Joan Blades, cofounder, MoveOn.org and author of The Motherhood Manifesto

“From third world poverty to climate change, it's become increasingly clear that traditional economic thinking is not only unable to solve today's myriad of problems, it's responsible for many of them. Riane Eisler's brilliant new book expands the scope and practice of economics beyond capitalism and socialism to a new economics in which equity, justice, and environmental sanity prevail. Must reading!”
—Morris Dees, cofounder, Southern Poverty Law Center

“In this brilliant new book, Riane Eisler hits the nail on the head. She points out exactly how and why the only sustainable economic systems are those that include the cost of human caring and happiness in the bottom line. Better yet, she provides us with practical steps toward implementing this crucial economic shift.”
—Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom and Mother-Daughter Wisdom

“The Real Wealth of Nations outlines a new economics—one that inspires us to fulfill the dream envisioned when the United States' Founders declared independence from that earlier empire.”
—John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

“This book should be read by every member of Congress, and its practical ideas incorporated into economic policy.”
—The Honorable Claudine Schneider, former member of the United States Congress

“This book is an essential, practical and loving survival guide to the future.“
—Margaret Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science

“Listen to Riane Eisler! No one is better at conveying the urgent message that we must abandon our economic double standard, and start valuing the essential work of caring for and investing in ourselves and our environment.”
—Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood

“Riane Eisler is one of the great wisdom voices of our times. In The Real Wealth of Nations, she gives us the vision and understanding —and the tools we can use—to shift our economics to a path where greed and violence no longer prevail, but are replaced by creativity and generosity. If you want to be part of the solution, read this magnificent book!”
—John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100 and Diet for a New America

“Riane Eisler has provided an accessible, fascinating, and persuasive argument for a caring perspective on economics. Brilliant.”
—Nel Noddings, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University and author of The Challenge to Care in Schools and Starting at Home

“The Real Wealth of Nations will challenge you to reconsider not just where our nation is going, but also what role you want to play in its future. This is a call to action that should be read and discussed by parents with their children, in our schools, and throughout any and all not-only-for-profit organizations.”
—Mark Albion, cofounder, Net Impact and author of True to Yourself and Making a Life, Making a Living

“Brilliant and inspiring! Riane Eisler is one of those few extraordinary people whose insight and ability to express complicated ideas in simple language help the rest of us to understand the human condition. The Real Wealth of Nations updates the dismal science of economics to the complex realities of the 21st century and points the way to a sustainable future.”
—Mal Warwick, coauthor of Values-Driven Business and board chair, Social Venture Network

“What if the world's economic system supported everyone and Mother Earth, too? This is now possible thanks to Riane Eisler's The Real Wealth of Nations.”
—Dr. Robert Muller, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General

“Riane Eisler has always been a revolutionary who has forced us to confront our conventional conceptions with unconventional thought. In her new book she applies her revolutionary insights to that most ‘dismal science,' economics, and in the process shows us how, with a bit of caring and a great deal of imagination, it need not remain dismal for long. A tour de force!”
—William F. Schulz, former Executive Director, Amnesty International USA and Fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

“The Real Wealth of Nations describes, illustrates, and animates a new perspective on economics. Chock full of examples and compelling facts on how to strengthen the quality of human and natural capital, it shows what is possible and necessary.”
—Jane Dutton, Chair, Management and Organizations Department, University of Michigan School of Business and author of Energize Your Workplace

“In this lively and wide-ranging book, Riane Eisler once again powerfully shows that we need to replace relations of domination with relations of partnership.”
—Julie A. Nelson, Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University and author of Economics for Humans

“The Real Wealth of Nations is a must read for all of us. At a time when we desperately need a new voice for a new kind of economics, this great piece of work arrives, rigorously researched, passionately written, and clear as a bell.”
—Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money

“This highly accessible, reader-friendly book will be helpful to business people and entrepreneurs interested in the organizational learning, organizational development, new science, and new leadership arenas. It's a must for anyone who wants a better future for our world.”
—Barbara G. Stanbridge, former President, National Association of Women Business Owners

“This is one of the most important books to be published since the beginning of the new century, crucial at this moment to the well-being of our troubled planet. The Real Wealth of Nations is a source of great hope and resolve.”
—Susan Griffin, author of A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War

“Nothing is more important today than the reinsertion of caring into our political commitments and our economic decisions. Nothing less than the future of our nation is at stake.”
—Jim Garrison, cofounder, State of the World Forum

“Based on rigorous research, Dr. Eisler's new book offers an integrated approach to decrease inequities in society through business, policy, and community changes, as well as the metrics to measure the changes it recommends.”
—Charlyn Belluzzu, FilmAid International

“Breaking new ground, with keen insight and brilliance, Eisler charts the journey to freedom and well-being.”
—bell hooks, author of All About Love

“Every Eisler book breaks new ground and identifies more caring, alternative pathways. From a position of vast experience and expertise, she here takes on the urgent question of economics and once again points us forward with passion, erudition and hope.”
—V. Spike Peterson, Professor of Political Science and author of A Critical Rewriting of Global Political Economy

“Riane Eisler has lent her powerful and unique voice to a topic as significant as it is overlooked. Caregiving has always played a key role in societies. How it is accomplished in our culture will define this generation and profoundly impact the next.”
—Sandra Burud, PhD, coauthor of Leveraging the New Human Capital

“Combining her powerful intellect with far-ranging life experiences, Riane Eisler has written a powerful book that answers the big question, ‘What's the economy for, anyway?' If you need any further evidence that the ‘you're on your ownership society' the United States has pursued relentlessly for the past 30 years isn't working, or just want to figure out what will, read this book.”
—John de Graaf, coauthor of Affluenza

“Riane Eisler takes on what may be the deepest issue of our time, showing us why systems that ignore caring lead to environmental and social catastrophe. She then gives us a six-step process for building an economy that serves our deepest needs and guides us to a civilization that dissolves problems instead of fueling them.”
—Gifford Pinchot, III, President, Bainbridge Graduate Institute and author of The Intelligent Organization

“This is a most important work. A caring economy would benefit every child, woman, and man, by valuing the immeasurable currencies that make us human.”
—Raffi Cavoukian, CM, author, singer, and founder of Child Honoring

“When there's a Nobel Prize in Caring, Riane Eisler should be the first recipient. With the skill of a world-class therapist, she puts the dismal science of economics on the couch, pierces through its double-speak, and offers practical ways to make it a powerful tool for humanizing our planet. There's no better act of caring than giving this book to every politician, civil servant, CEO, professor, and decision-maker in your life.”
—Michael Shuman, author of The Small-Mart Revolution

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