Great books are few and far between, but go out and get this one. A review from the Baltimore Chronicle gives a better overview than I can!
Do you ever open your eyes in the morning and think, Oh, wow, why bother...? If so, you’ll be glad to hear that macrohistorian and cultural transformation theorist Riane Eisler has just delivered another massive and exhilarating dose of hope for the sane and weary, with the publication of her latest book, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics.
In The Chalice and the BladeThe Chalice and the Blade, her 1987 introduction to “partnership” as the leitmotif of sane social engineering, Eisler persuasively argued that nonviolent, egalitarian, culturally advanced and prosperous societies have existed in the past and could certainly be made (by us) to exist again.
Now comes The Real Wealth of Nations, tackling the ominous gaps in our mental map of what economic theory is all about. An economy is more than the market, the government, and the military, says Eisler, eventually citing chapter and verse from a long list of other scholars to create a very persuasive case. A complete picture of a national and global economy must include the whole range of vital caring and caregiving activities—mostly undervalued, undercounted, and either severely underpaid or totally unpaid; and mostly performed (surprise!) by women—that take place in the community and in the home.
Eisler, a meticulous cross-disciplinary researcher, presents a good deal of cheering evidence to fortify her recommendations. What we spend to maximize the value of so-called human capital, for example (i.e., caring for and educating our children and youth), should be considered not a burdensome expense but a capital investment, insists the author; and as such, it should be amortizable over twenty years—the time frame for nurturing a generation of healthy, high-performing human beings. To back that up, she presents research outcomes showing that, e.g., early childhood educational interventions produce a 200 percent return on investment, and that actual companies that have adopted a comprehensively caring orientation to their workforce more than recoup their considerable investment in health care, exercise facilities, onsite child care, parental leave, and so forth, with better motivated employees, lower turnover and training costs, and higher productivity.
The cases cited come from enlightened regions like the Nordic nations, where social policy is light-years ahead of nearly everyone else’s; but even in the USA, where the publicly funded social safety net now consists of way more holes than netting, there are already numerous companies profiting over the long term from this kind of investment in caring and caregiving.
For about the price of a good vegan (or steak) dinner, you can order The Real Wealth of Nations in hardcover. This is one time when I wouldn't’t wait for the paperback edition. Your alarm will buzz again at the usual time tomorrow morning. As you open your eyes on another day of global warming, tribal and regional conflict, and general transnational chaos, it will feel wonderful to have Eisler on your team, sharing her straightforward prescription for planetary rescue: a lot more serious, high-level, long-range attention to the crucial economic role of caring and caregiving, and a thoroughly partnerist orientation, starting right now. Today.