Assumptions of power-with culture

There is a culture 'war' of sorts underway, has been for ~10,000 years or probably even longer. Okay, reality is much more complex and multi-layered than that, but let's start with this simple cardboard characterization...

(For starters, it's seen as a simple war only from the power-over perspective. Shifting paradigms is "only" the second-highest of Donella Meadows' leverage points anyway.)

Assumptions of power-with (Mary Parker Follett), aka partnership culture (Riane Eisler, Walter Wink), Leaver culture (Daniel Quinn), aka Keeper/Mender cultures (Shariff Abdullah), aka permaculture or any number of big picture framings (a few more are below):

  • humans (and all that is art or artificial) are part of [and in partnership with] the rest of nature/life/planet/universe (The artisphere is natural)
  • for good decisions to be made, include everyone as much as possible; we may sometimes choose to give more resources or decision-making power to a few, but it's not because they 'deserve' it
  • we, and everything we do/think/say, are manifestations of universe/spirit/love/god/life/beauty/consciousness/wholeness/oneness/etc. - for example we help each other naturally, because we enjoy doing so
  • things are always changing (dynamic thinking)
  • there is almost always enough, and we can all gain at once (abundance thinking)
  • when there's a problem, the thing to do is to identify the damaged connections and heal them
  • most learning happens through what we experience (and respect's the learner's motivations and curiousities)
  • there's more than one way to do it (what is good or right is not completely knowable, and is itself evolving)
  • you always have choice
  • some may have, or be given, more (resources, power, etc.) than others, but it is not because they deserve it [is there a more positive way to say this?]

Assumptions of power-over (Follett), aka domination culture (Eisler, Wink), Taker culture (Quinn), aka Breaker culture (Abdullah):

  • humans (and all that is art or artificial) are separate from the rest of nature/life/planet/universe
  • for good decisions to be made, some people must have decision-making power over the rest (could be a dictator, could be elected reps + courts + military, etc., ...)
  • we are inherently flawed, likely to mess things up - for example we're greedy, and help each other only under promise of reward or threat of punishment (see PunishedByRewards)
  • things have always been this way, and always will be (static thinking)
  • there isn't enough, and for one to gain, another must lose (zero-sum and scarcity thinking)
  • when there's a problem, the first thing to do is to identify the "bad guy" and punish them (Wink's Myth of redemptive violence)
  • most learning happens through what we are told and/or what we read
  • there is one right way to live (it is possible to correctly and completely determine what is, and what should be good or right)
  • there are some things you just have to do
  • some people/things deserve more (power, resources, etc.) than others. E.g.: decision-makers (vs. workers), people/art (vs. the rest of nature), men (vs. women), adults (vs. children), living (vs. inorganic), urban (vs. rural), gender/religion/ethnicity/race/language/beauty/ability/nationality/politics/whim/etc.

To be clear, i don't think that domination is wrong or bad. It's helpful to think of it as a brittle adaptation - see Domination is a sabertooth. Also, the image that we are in domination cultures that need to shift to partnership is overly simplistic - both pattern sets are in operation all of the time, and a big part of the shift is how we as individuals look at things. The Process Arts are the most hopeful movement i know of in both this personal shift and in the shift of collective stories & systems that we live in.

More on the third item in each list - that we can see human nature (or anything) as flawed is a combination of our existence as semi-separate egos (everything doesn't always work out as *i* would like...), and a testimony to the power of our imagination ( something must be flawed - you, me, etc.). This imagination is at the core of the human challenge; see Consciousness is our oxygen challenge. I've been pointed to but not read Matthew Fox's Original Blessing; also see this response:

This list started from my own thoughts, Ishmael, and Nonviolent Communication. It has evolved through conversations with many people, reading other books and experience in the Process Arts.

Particularly helpful was finding Walter Wink's list, p95 of EngagingThePowers, itself based on Richard B. Gregg's in The Power of Nonviolence, pp138-9 in the 2d ed., published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation 1962. Online bookstores seem to only have the 1960 1st ed. (ISBN 0227675673) and 1984 3rd ed. (ISBN 0934676704). This is not the more recent Zinn book.

See Sharif Abdullah's Creating a World That Works For All; and i really ought to read Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade.

Other lists to look at:

I see the Process Arts as one of the most hopeful building activities for power-with culture.

Also see nonviolence