Towards the Caring Economy: Shifting From Numbers to People

Review of Riane Eisler – Caring Economics

“The most important, yet undervalued, human work” at the very top of the economic chain,  is the ultimate goal of economics”,  says acclaimed scientist Riane Eisler. And she further explains, “the caring economy campaign (CEC) is shifting focus from GDP and Wall Street to the enormous economic return from investing in caring for people and nature”.

For her, the investment in humanity, should be at the centre of all socio-economic decisions, so caring for and educating people is the first step for this to be accomplished.

Domination Culture vs. Partnership System

Riane Eisler  is a cultural historian, systems scientist, educator and speaker and author whose work on how to recreate culture in better ways, has inspired thousands of scholars and social activists over the last decades. Eisler developed the concept of caring economy, which tries to bring awareness, to how our current system is the result of long-lasting walls that have been built between the different powers that dominate social life. In her book  The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, Eisler proposes a new approach to economics that gives visibility and value to the essential human work of caring for people and the planet.

For us to achieve that type of mindset, Eisler proposes that a new social paradigm is needed. That paradigm transcend the limitations of conventional social categories such as religious vs. secular, right vs. left, capitalist vs. communist, East vs. West, and pre-industrial vs. industrial or post-industrial. She notes that societies in all these categories have been repressive and violent, and that none answer the question of what kinds of institutions and belief systems,  support more equitable and peaceful relations.

A key feature of the present system is what she calls domination culture.  This, comes as a major challenge society has to face nowadays. While a domination culture features “a system of top-down rankings ultimately backed up by fear or force – man over man, man over woman, race over race, religion over religion, and man over nature,” her alternative is  a partnership system consisting of following four mutually supporting core components.

In her idea, this system would allow “a more democratic and egalitarian structure in both the family and state or tribe; equal partnerships between women and men, and with this a high valuing in women and men, as well as in social and economic policy, of traits and activities stereotypically considered feminine, such as care and caregiving; a low degree of abuse and violence, because they are not needed to maintain rigid rankings of domination; A system of beliefs that presents relations of partnership and mutual respect as normal and desirable.”

Towards the Caring Economy

Eisler’s premise is clear: how to create a society where people and equality are the top protagonists, there is nothing above and, at the same time, nothing below. She has recently created the Caring Economy Campaign, a project that holds the mission to care about people above all.

“CEC programs provide the missing foundations needed to support the many grassroots organizations today working to end cycles of poverty and promote women’s empowerment, economic security, and justice for all. The CEC demonstrates the financial return on investment from paid sick and family leave, quality affordable Pre-K, paycheck fairness, and other policies needed for equal rights, opportunities, and U.S. competitiveness in the knowledge/service economy.”

A caring economy is essential for prosperity in our current knowledge/service economic era, which runs on “high quality human capital” – people able to fully express their potentials for learning, empathy, collaboration, and creativity. She writes how “we need new economic measures and policies that recognize the enormous financial return from investing in caring for people in both the market and non-market household economic sectors. Investing in our human infrastructure reduces the back-end costs of crime, illness, and lost potential – the enormous yet avoidable costs of an un-caring economy.”

One major role, crucial for the complete appliance of this caring economy campaign is women’s role. As we know, women do most of the caring work, usually for little or no pay.  Raising the status of women has positive economic and social benefits for everyone. Nations where the status of women is higher have paid family leave, high quality early childhood education, and stipends to families for care work. Because they invest in caring for and educating their people, these nations rank high in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Reports and the UN Human Development Reports.

Over the past decades Riane Eisler’s work pioneered and helped to raise awareness on how economics needs to change, by focusing more on people and the environment, and not just money for the sake of money.