Archive for Partnership

Pathology of Dominator Dynamics

Happy new year!¬† Time flys when … you are busy ūüôā¬†

I am longing to write about¬†Partnership dynamics.¬† However, I recently came an article on psychopathy and power hierarchies and am reminded of another topic — the pathology of dominator dynamics.¬† Reviewing the various pathologies of¬†psychopathy, sociopathy, narcisism and codependence, one can (I suggest) readily see how these psychological conditions¬†are correlated with¬†dominator dynamics and culture.¬† This¬†blog entry¬†quickly¬†touches on psychopathy and sociopathy. Future posts will touch on narcisim and codependence.¬†¬†Once we¬†¬†begin to see how these psychological disorders have¬†¬†left their imprint on organizational members and organizations,¬†we might¬†experience a¬†renewed resolve to imagine¬†and enact healthier organizations.¬†

To briefly review cultural historian Riane Eisler’s cultural transformation model, which outlines the concepts of Partnership vs. dominator cultural dynamics,¬†below is an very good¬†summary by Ron Miller, a thinker and activist in the area of holistic education (who is potentially an excellent resource for the study of Partnership approaches to learning organizations).¬†Miller writes:¬†

“[Eisler]¬†…¬†has argued that societies make choices about how they distribute power, that there is nothing natural or inevitable about oppressive hierarchies. She has looked at how values and beliefs are shared across social institutions, from intimate relationships to the state, and found a clear difference between what she calls “dominator” cultural patterns (societies marked by violence, authoritarianism, and gender inequity) and “partnership” orientations (societies that value cooperation, nurturing, and equality). A dominator culture seizes hold of human differences in order to rank people into more or less valued social positions; a partnership culture aims to link people into diverse communities where each contributes his or her strengths and finds aid and support as needed. In any dominator-oriented society, Eisler says, one finds “hierarchies of domination” that limit individual expression and crush resistance, while a partnership orientation supports “hierarchies of actualization”-ways of organizing institutions that maximize “the collective power to accomplish things together.”¬†¬†(Retrieved from:, 1/10/10)

¬†The term “pathological”¬†is defined as, “caused by or evidencing a psychologically disturbed condition… “psychoneurotic” … “neurotic,” and also as “caused by … or manifesting disease,” “not exhibiting¬†good health in body or mind.” (Retrieved from: ¬†, 1/10/10).¬†

Recently I came across an article by Clinton Callahan on psychopathy and hierarchies of power. Psychopathy is a personality disorder that is characterized by an absence of empathy. Quoting Wikipedia for expediency:

“Psychopathy (pronounced /sa??k?p??i/[1][2]) is a personality disorder whose hallmark is a lack of empathy. Researcher Robert Hare, whose Hare Psychopathy Checklist is widely used, describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators[3][4] who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence[5][6][7] to control others and to satisfy their own needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse”.[8] “What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony.”[9]

“Psychopaths are glib and superficially charming, and many psychopaths are excellent mimics of normal human emotion;[10] some psychopaths can blend in, undetected, in a variety of surroundings, including corporate environments.[11] There is neither a cure nor any effective treatment for psychopathy; there are no medications or other techniques which can instill empathy, and psychopaths who undergo traditional talk therapy only become more adept at manipulating others.[12] The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth.[10] It is estimated that one percent of the general population are psychopaths. [13][14]”¬†

Related to the disorder of psychopathy is the disorder of sociopathy. Again quoting the same article: “David T. Lykken proposes psychopathy and sociopathy are two distinct kinds of antisocial personality disorder. He believes psychopaths are born with temperamental differences such as impulsivity, cortical underarousal, and fearlessness that lead them to risk-seeking behavior and an inability to internalize social norms. On the other hand, he claims sociopaths have relatively normal temperaments; their personality disorder being more an effect of negative sociological factors like parental neglect, delinquent peers, poverty, and extremely low or extremely high intelligence. Both personality disorders are the result of an interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental factors, but psychopathy leans towards the hereditary whereas sociopathy tends towards the environmental.[38]” Retrieved from, 1/10/10)

In his online article, “Beware the Psychopath, My Son” ( Clinton Callahan draws on sources such as, Snakes in Suits by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, to propose that because psychopaths (and by definition, sociopaths) are not constrained by human empathy yet mimic normal emotions well, that they often rise to the top of (dominator) hierarchies. He points to bloody history and to the amoral posture of many organizations to suggest that organizations are somewhat (if not more substantially) influenced by sociopathic norms.¬† The article is thought provoking and worth reading.¬†¬†

¬†What do you think?¬† Have you ever worked with a sociopathic personality?¬† How did it affect the dynamics of the organization?¬† (Please don’t post any names or organizations).

Starry Skies, Diversity, and Vision

Hi Carman,
A beautiful Sunday morning to you! I agree that Partnership does not need to answer to Paul, Plato or Shakespeare, although I do enjoy dialoging with them from time to time.

Thank you for sharing your deeply thought through and¬†fresh thoughts on Paul. One observation I would add is that whatever was or was not the intention of people at the time, Christianity and Judaism¬† –or rather, as different streams of thought converge, a variety of Christianities and Judaisms¬† — exist today.

Because we are exploring emerging ground, we have the opportunity to consider some interesting questions, that I think have some broader applicability.  One relates to focus.

Alfred North Whitehead describes how every fact “drags around with it” a universe of assumptions in which that observation or fact is both comprehensible and true. Essentially agreeing with Whitehead on this point, feminist philosphers have long observed that the practice of using fixed and firm categories —¬†such as the often very firm boundaries between academic disciplines —¬†to describe reality reifies a particular worldview by obscuring other potentially useful categories and the way that categories interconnect to form the “sacred canopy” of our worldview.¬†

On the other hand, when changes do occur in¬†a particular field, the process of¬†cross-fertilization of ideas is slowed. (This is one reason, as you know, that trans-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary studies are presently such a wellspring of new thought and innovation).¬†¬† Also,¬† being too fixed with regard to category¬†implies a world in which all things can truly be separate and static — described by one category or model without reference to others. For example, years ago, when I was in a leadership role in organizations (before I became a coach and consultant), I was¬† unable to immediately see the connection between emerging ideas in scie nce and emerging ideas in leadership. I thought that it was academically interesting but had nothing to do with the “real” world. Obviously, I’ve come to change my views!

The categories we use¬†illuminate some aspects¬†of reality and hide others.¬† With left-brained thought and language, it’s often the¬†connections amongst things that are hidden.

Because the paradigm we are discussing is holistic, we can’t assume that the whole universe of assumptions is known to the reader, or even to ourselves.¬† Rather Partnership recognizes that different perspectives will “see” different patterns, and that, with a conducive social dynamic, multiple perspectives can, reflect more light on a given subject. Further, a holistic perspective suggests that reality is holographic in that nothing stands alone but is shaped by its context or world.

Because this blog seeks to explore a new paradigm of leadership and organization, it consciously oversteps conventional categories in order to describe both this paradigm we call Partnership and also the views of the cosmos, including the patterns of the stars, we each see from where we sit (both physically and on the basis of our life experience).

So, in discussing¬†a Partnership approach to leadership and organizations, we talk about the literatures of leadership, organization, sociology, psychology (so far so good), and continue on to philosophy and theology which have been held, until relatively recently, to be separate and distinct subjects. Religion in particular has been considered a separate realm best avoided because it can raise passionate differences. “Sensible” people avoid it. By virtue of where I sit under that starry expanse, I am unable to be “sensible” in this respect because ideas in all these fields shape our view of the world. Certainly, as you have pointed out, the experience of a religious conversion or mystical insight is an example of a personal transformation which yields a sometimes radically different worldview. (My sister also described motherhood this way).

On the other hand, I appreciate that some who visit here may be put off when we venture “off topic” sharing our views of the patterns we see in that sky.¬† In a sense, this is a microcosm of a Partnership organization. Different members sitting on the grass, looking up and being able to share what they see. And also with respect to our collective endeavors, focusing on the shared values and vision that pull us together.

As you have probably noticed, I see the coaching approach as enacting Partnership, supporting the emergence of trust, collaboration and creativity in organizations. I am very excited to mention a new project that I am becoming involved with, to bring coaching training to leaders and teams, and coaching the development of a coaching culture. I’ll write more about it in this blog, but as this is also a kind of a letter, I¬†wanted to share it with you here.

My best,


P.S. We are having a break in the rain today. It’s cold and overcast, with the holiday lights making a nice contrast as it grows dark in the evening.

On Plato, Paul and Shakespeare

Paul was an orthodox Israelite Rabbi [Pharisee] who experienced paradigm shift due to a life-changing event. As I propose in my document The Secret Synagogue Paul directed his discipline at teachers-Israelite men-who had been called out of Israelite society into schools [congregations].The School of Jesus was, in its inception, indigenous to Palestine but Paul extended its influence to Israelites living among the nations. Its mission was to promote their [Israelite] Messiah, Jesus [Christmas carols unwittingly acknowledge Jewish exclusivity: King of Israel, Little town of Bethlehem…]. I should emphasize that there is not a scintilla of scriptural evidence for the idea that Paul taught non-Israelites or Gentiles. In The Book of Acts Paul is always in synagogues-or wherever he can teach Israelites. Gentiles are not even on the radar, so to speak.

So, when Paul says that “women are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission” I believe he is speaking as a man of his times and from deep within a patriarchal culture. When he says women were not to speak, I take that literally. Speaking is speaking, and submission is submission. [I imagine the First Century Israelite culture as analogous to modern Hasidic Judaism]. The men Paul counsels have an urgent task to perform and he will brook no distractions. The Titanic [Judaism] was about to strike the iceberg [their God] and so lifeboat training was pressing. [Forgive the overworn analogy]

Now, modern readers may recoil at this interpretation because of its implications for “the Church.” To this I will say, there is no “Church.” There is no “Christianity” [there never was] and there is no Judaism. The apostolic letters do describe a messianic movement within First Century Judaism, but this movement was not a “new religion” per se. I would liken ancient Messianism our modern labor movements. Workers, attempting to organize, are not interested in establishing a new company but, rather in modifying existing relations with management and in securing benefits. Likewise the First Century Messianic movement was an innovation within Judaism-albeit one that claimed to be Judaism’s peak and precipice. The Messianists taught that God sent his son into the Jewish world [society] to save it [John 3:16] but also that that Jewish world was passing away [1 John 2:15-17].

Hence Paul’s words have no bearing on or application to the present. As I mentioned before, “Christianity” was a 2nd Century fiction concocted by men who evidently wanted to extend and increase power-to make it catholic [meaning universal]. My purpose in inserting Partnership into Paul’s words was to suggest that for Paul “spirit” connoted a paradigm shift. He was not speaking individualistically because his culture was collectivistic. Hence, while “spirit” meant a transformed consciousness [see Romans 12:2] it was still a group phenomenon.

Let’s discuss Partnership. I would compare and contrast Partnership and Messianism thus: a cruise ship and a battle ship. While conceptually they may share commonalities [a ship is a ship] they are also fundamentally different. For example, Eisler’s Partnership speaks about “putting a nation in order” by “first putting the family in order” by “first setting our hearts right.” Leadership and the State are bracketed out. First Century Messianism, by contrast, spoke directly to power and promoted conflict. Because it disturbed the Established Order Jesus likened it to “new wine in old wineskins.” John the Baptizer and Jesus Christ seemed to have been dissident intellectuals who challenged the dominant institution-and paid dearly.

Tragically, self-serving institutions, conservative commentaries, and traditional worldviews have blunted their radicalism. What was elevated music in antiquity is now heard as elevator music. But I digress. If a vocal leader with her heart “set right” were transferred to a dominator culture then conflict would inevitably ensue. But as I mentioned Lisa, the comparison between Partnership and Messianism is moot because the Messianic movement is a fait accompli. Partnership does not have to answer to Plato or Paul or Shakespeare. Their worlds have passed away and a new world full of new challenges stretches before us. Partnership has its work cut out for itself, does it not?

Bye for now,


On Parallels between Paul and Eisler, and Group Mind

Carman, It’s always a pleasure to read your thoughts. Thank you for highlighting the parallels between Eisler on Partnership and Paul. I hadn’t fully appreciated this aspect of Paul.¬† The opposition of¬†“flesh” and “spirit” is¬†a key theme in many¬†theologies, so I read him more literally.¬† I do hear and appreciate that you interpret Paul’s words differently, with an interesting result.¬†¬†¬†

[12/8/09:¬†¬†Carman, I’ve been continuing to mull your interpretation of Paul, and see some strong parallels with my own [process] train of thought. If we use the idea of “small self'” in place of “flesh,” I agree that these ideas do begin to describe¬†a holistic, Partnership approach. I think the original metaphor is problematic in that it is too limited and freezes an occassionally conflicting relationship between different aspects (or intelligences) of ourselves into¬†permanent opposition.¬†¬†I think this core antagonism¬†is paradigmatic, in a sense, of the ethic of opposition,¬†domination and control towards others in a dominator system. If instead, we recognize difference rather than antagonism, we retain the possibility of a higher, creatively intelligent resolution which surpasses what we can¬† imagine as individuals.]

Another area of concern for me, with regard to Paul, is his¬†statement in¬†Corinthians 14:34-35¬†which seems to promote the subordination of women to men,¬†which would be¬†contrary to an ethic of Partnership:¬† ‚ÄúAs in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”¬† That said, I’ve also read that this is often or usually interpreted to refer to a specific situation rather than as a generalization¬†¬†¬†

I know that you have some expertise on this subject.  What are your thoughts?  

I¬†am interested to explore the key question that you have posed: “If a Partnership group were being infiltrated by dominator tendencies, how would you address the issue, especially if dissolution were imminent?”

I am drawn to the idea that a higher wisdom¬†can emerge in groups where there is shared intention, trust, active listening, mutual encouragement and appreciation. I’ve¬†found that in really healthy, collaborative groups there can be a kind of ” magic” — a very satisfying experience of co-creativity in which the result is clearly better than members might achieve alone.

Two quotes from Napolean Hill seem to speak to that notion:

“When two or more people coordinate in a spirit of harmony and work toward a definite objective or purpose, they place themselves in position, through the alliance, to absorb power directly from the great storehouse of the creative mechanism of each contributing mind.”

And:¬† ‚ÄúNo two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.‚ÄĚ

For me, these quotes bring together the very compatible principles of Partnership and holism.

Would you like to consider a particular concrete situation and reason together?


P.S.  I think we have your rain today!  The skys just opened up.

Domination-Partnership Dichotomy (Exploring Parallels)

Hi Lisa,

Why am I not surprised that serving a greater good is [your] greatest form of satisfaction? Thank you too for your invigorating treatment of the holistic paradigm.

I would like to address and integrate some of your comments, beginning with, “I disagree with Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit, but that view is very consistent with philosophical atomism.”

Paul’s dichotomization of “flesh” and “spirit” is, I believe, societal rather than somatic. That is, his focus is on “group attachment” and “group integrity.” In short, he is doing sociology, not psychology. Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit seems very much like Riane Eisler’s dichotomization of domination and partnership. Eisler declares: “For all their unique peculiarities, most of our attempts at civilization have had one of two basic configurations the domination system or the partnership system.” She seems to be speaking about two basic ways of looking at the world and about the systems that express such worldview.

Similarly, Paul’s dichotomization of “flesh” and “spirit” seems analogous to “domination” and “partnership” as those mindsets impact the group. (I cannot overemphasize the group phenomenon). In Galatians, Paul is counseling leaders/teachers against sub-professional conduct that undermines group adhesion. Unless he can recall them to a larger vision, the leadership group will dissolve.

Put another way, Paul is a rabbinic leader speaking to a group of rabbis about convention learning versus transformation learning. Convention learners are attempting to reintroduce their [domination] thinking into the transformation [partnership] culture. Using the domination-partnership dichotomy I will attempt to paraphrase Paul’s counsel. Let’s imagine he is addressing a leadership school that promotes partnership:

13 For you have been called to partnership; only do not [use] your liberty as an opportunity for personal ambition, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the [holistic] law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this: “You shall love your neighbor [colleagues] as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! [I have actually seen pit bulls attempt this!]

16 I say then: Make progress in the partnership mindset, and you shall not enact the domination mindset. 17 For the domination mindset militates against the partnership mindset, and the partnership mindset is against the domination mindset; and these attitudes are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the partnership mindset, you are not bound by the domination culture.

19 Now the group-destroying behaviors characteristic of the domination mindset are evident, Sexual Deviance: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 Self-Idolatry and Narcissism: hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, casting your fellow teachers in the worst possible light, 21 envy, character assassination, drunkenness, drunken parties, and the like; of which I warn l you beforehand, just as I also warned you in time past, that those who practice such things will be expelled from the partnership program.

22 But partnership’s mindset yields the following orchard: group attachment, esprit de corps, member well-being, longsuffering toward one another, kindness toward one another, spontaneous goodness, group trust, 23 gentleness toward new members, self-control vis-√†-vis recalcitrant members. Against such there is no legitimate prohibition. 24 And those [who are] partnership’s offspring have repudiated the domination mindset with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in partnership, let us also walk in transformed consciousness. 26 Let us not return to the domination culture by becoming conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Lisa, in your previous post you stated: “of course, one can apply a holistic perspective to leadership and organization with interesting implications.” I would find the application of your insights to a leadership group in crisis to be very instructive. Perhaps the group scenario above will suffice. If a partnership group were being infiltrated by dominator tendencies, how would you address the issue-especially if dissolution were imminent?

Bye for now!


The rain has relented and so my sun-starved eyes may be sated today.

Thralldom vs. Self-Actualization (On Our Relationship to the Whole)

Good morning, Carman. Welcome back ūüôā We are hoping for some rain today, as well — just 40% chance of thundershowers – would be great writing weather!

Your post seems to describe several dimensions of thralldom, with freedom from one form of thralldom found at the cost of subjection to another, presumably better form of thralldom. For example, there is freedom from slavery to become the servant of God and the larger vision of community, and freedom from flesh to become the servant of Spirit.¬† As you describe, it’s¬† framed as a matter of which master one serves. (I disagree with Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit, but that view¬†is very¬†consistent with philosophical atomism).¬†

And, insightfully, you make the connection to leadership (great distinction of leadership as pull and management as push) while both for the sake of something larger.

So much to respond to in this!

It’s been said that meaning is derived from the larger context. So if we are at the 1 mile mark in a race, the meaning of that accomplishment is relative to whether we are in a 1 mile race or a five mile race, and¬†whether an act is moral or immoral depends on the nature of the universe.¬† (As Whitehead writes, any assertion of fact drags along with it¬†a whole universe of understanding in which the fact is true).¬†It is my personal experience that serving a greater good is the greatest form of satisfaction. But is this thralldom or self-actualization? And what is the difference?

My initial thoughts relate to paradigm. I do share the increasingly repeated view that we are in a time of paradigm change.  Considering the modern paradigm: When we think of ourselves as separate atoms, and the world as a collection of separate objects (the modern paradigm), then we think/find it necessary to control or dominate others to meet our needs. Hence, the dynamics of domination and thralldom.

In this paradigm, that which is larger than ourselves is a separate, dominating, all powerful, entity, which psychologist Jean Baker Miller correlates with the classic patriarchal father. Miller describes how subordination to the father was explicitly desribed in the childrearing texts of pre-war Germany as preparing children to assume their proper relationshp to the State and ultimately to God. In this model, there is virtue in subordination to the all powerful other. Implicit in this model is the power of the other to reward the subordinate and punish the non-compliant.

Further, in relationships of domination and abuse, there is a well-recognized psychological syndrome in which the injured party inflicts a similar injury on others, and in doing so, identifies with the dominating person or entity, and thereby obtains a temporary feeling of power and relief from his or her pain. (Hence the cycle of abuse).

Your quote from 1984, “But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal-Nineteen Eighty-Four,” seems to describe freedom from the pain of the experience of thralldom through identification with the all powerful other.

These are the dynamics of domination, and a review of history shows us that these cultural dynamics have certainly shaped our approach to leadership and organization.

That said, if we look at the same issue from the perspective (or pardigm) of holism and process, then I think we reframe the question. If we are not isolated atoms — if our sense of separation is an optical illusion of consciousness, as Einstein proposed — then we are different kinds of beings than we have imagined.¬†

If we are, indeed, not separate from the rest of the world, then we are paradoxical beings in that we have both our unique experience from a particular perspective and are also internally related to the rest of the world. We are part of the world and the world is part of us. In this paradigm, we can never be independent and separate from rest of the world. (This notion of a self that is purely independent has been described as the “soul slowly twisting in the void”). The fact that most of us would find this notion terrifying tells us something about our psychological nature, at minimum.

From a holistic perspective, our freedom is inherently always in relation to others, to the world of our experience.

(If we were to address the theological dimensions of these ideas,¬†we might notice that although some theologies describe both a transcendent God who is separate from a holistic creatioin, theologically, holism is usually associated with immanence, the view that¬†we are both¬†internally related with each other and to the Sacred ( by whatever name we choose to call it — for example, God,¬†Goddess,¬†Cosmic¬†Intelligence, etc.) According to the perspective of immanence, the Sacred¬†might be experienced as¬†the deepest, wisest part of¬†ourselves).

The holistic paradigm offers the possibility that the small self may be informed by the wisdom of a larger intelligence within, and so expresses its unique nature towards the betterment of the whole. From this perspective, self-actualization and service are of the same cloth.

Obviously this is my personal view. For me, the experience of this paradigm and relationship to the world (to the extent that I have grasped it so far) is not one of thralldom, but rather one of empowerment and, to the extent that I feel really “in-tune”, ¬†joy. This feels very different to me than the drugs of status or “power over” in which one experiences the other side of coin of domination, or the satisfactions of certainty. (In my view, the conviction that one must be¬†“right” and that others must therefore by “wrong” privileges only our own perspective and experience and is, therefore, egocentric and in opposition the world).

There are other perspectives that value Partnership, which see the world differently. Personally, I find a holistic¬†and organismic approach (which sees the cosmos¬†as a intelligent and creative),¬†to be very coherent and workable.¬† Also, of course, one can apply a holistic¬†perspective to leadership and organization with interesting implications — another topic!¬†

Thank you for raising such a provocative question!

Enjoy your day,


Slavery is Freedom (Being Part of Something Larger)

Slavery is freedom. Alone-free-the human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal-Nineteen Eighty-Four

Hi Lisa,

I have been lost in Mary Shelley’s apocalyptic novel, “The Last Man.” It’s a rather grim story about a pestilence that scythes the human family like so much corn-as Shelley is wont to say. I’ve accompanied the final fifty surviving members of the human race to Switzerland where they vainly hope to escape the contagion. Shelley’s prose is very dense and thus my mental plod has been very slow. I’ve literally reached the point where Vancouver Library SWOT teams are crashing down my door demanding their book back. “But I’m only on page 5” I shout back. I’m so thankful that the book was not required reading in university or I most assuredly would have abandoned my studies and returned to carrying bricks for hyperactive bricklayers.

Between Shelley’s pale horse and our own [H1N1] I’ve been thinking about your comment:

“Based on my own experience in organizations and conversations with corporate managers and leaders, I think many contemporary leaders also share a need for meaning, purpose, self-actualization, personal growth, contribution, and despite their privileges, and also often experience themselves as constrained by the system in which they operate.”

I have no doubt that managers and leaders share a need for meaning, etc., and that they feel (or are made to feel) systemic constraints.”

While reviewing Malina and Pilch’s “Social Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul” I encountered some observations which I believe speak to the experience of managers and leaders. Their analysis focuses on Galatians 5:13-26:

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not [use] liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told [you] in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those [who are] Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. NKJV

Malina and Pilch comment thus: “Israelite Jesus-group members, once under the law of Moses, are now free of those constraints. But this freedom is for a new slave service to fellow Jesus-group members, a service motivated by “love,” that is, group attachment and concern for group integrity. There really was no “freedom from” in the ancient world with out a “freedom for.” The God of Israel freed Israel from Egyptian slavery so that Israelites would be freed for the service of God in God’s land. Similarly, Jesus-group members freed from slave service to the Law were now free for slave-service to fellow Jesus-group members” p.215.

As I discuss in my monograph, “The Secret Synagogue,” what the above authors refer to as Jesus-groups were in reality Israelite rabbinical communities-leaders and managers. “Spirit” was a cipher for “perspective transformation.” I submit that while “meaning, purpose, self-actualization, personal growth, and contribution” were important to the messianic pedagogues, those characteristics and constraints did not negate their thralldom to one another and to their deities. Though we moderns describe group phenomena much differently the reality of thralldom remains largely unchanged.

I believe Nineteen Eighty-Four speaks to the need of mangers [push] and leaders [pull] to escape into something larger than themselves, whatever the relationship-a group, an organization: “Slavery is freedom. Alone-free-the human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal” p.277 I would substitute “administrative family” for Party.

Consequently, when we speak about the constraints managers and leaders are subject to are we not really talking about thralldom-no matter how psychologistic our descriptors?

What are your thoughts Lisa?

Bye for now,


A pattering rain and a melancholy wind assail the coast today. I’m off to locate the last man Lionel Verney and his remnant. I believe Orwell also described Winston Smith-Nineteen Eighty-Four-as the last man. Interesting, no?


Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul. By Bruce J. Malina & John J. Pilch. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press.

The Evolution of Organizations

Hi Carman,

My apologies for my delay in responding! I appreciate your willingness to remain in dialogue with me during this period where I’m not able to respond as quickly as I would like.¬†

¬†Your post raises such insightful and powerful questions about organizations. First, you notice the parallel between Patterson’s description of the thrall or slave, “a body with natural movements, but without its own reason, -an existence entirely absorbed in another” [the Master] and Morgan’s description of employee in a bureaucratic organization (organization as machine). Both scenarios share the ethic of controlling others to achieve one’s ends. This ethic is common and even considered part of normal human condition in much of Western philosophy, psychology, management literature, etc.

¬†Your openness and willingness to dig – to notice the residue of the dominator paradigm in even the brain metaphor and learning organization demonstrate intellectual courage. I agree that we need to be willing to explore beyond even such valuable contributions as these — using them as stepping stones on the road to personal and organizational self-actualization.

¬†Thank you for introducing Dr. Tara Fenwick’s analysis that:

*¬† “Even within the Learning Organization – ample evidence of thralldom (disposition to dominate; propensity to submit).”

¬†* The learning organization while being “ostensibly egalitarian” remains “essentially authoritarian” in that all serves the organization “learning is technical, instrumental”¬†

¬†* “Critical scrutiny is deflected away from the power structures and the learning organization ideology itself, and focused on the individual”

¬†* “The voice of the learning organization sculptors is not self-critical. The agenda and vision of the leader or educational agent is bracketed out, obscuring the partiality and positionality of the voices calling for continuous learning and learning organizations.”

¬†This seems true on its face. Organizations are not self-existent, but exist within a larger social and economic framework. A colleague of mine has recommended business journalist Marjorie Kelly’s book, The Divine Right of Capital. Kelly’s work contrasts economic democracy with economic aristocracy, which is comparable to feudalism. (The feudal analogy is commonplace in organizations). We are all shaped, to a substantial degree by our inheritances. Therefore, many (most?) learning organizations are the convergence of these two streams. Further, leadership and organizational coaches, consultants and trainers usually serve larger organizations whose roots are in Theory X soil, and so we may emphasize how these approaches help organizational leaders serve their ends, which include the achievement of career success by delivering results to shareholders.

 Based on my own experience in organizations and conversations with corporate managers and leaders, I think many contemporary leaders also share a need for meaning, purpose, self-actualization, personal growth, contribution, and despite their privileges, and also often experience themselves as constrained by the system in which they operate.

¬†It comes back, I think, to this sense of self-searching and transformation. As Fenwick implies, this is particularly important at level of organizational leadership precisely because of the impact that the “beingness” of leaders has on the quality … and effectiveness of the organization.

¬†The topic of organizations, effectiveness, and the self-searching and self-actualization of organizations and their members is such a large topic, that I will postpone it to another post. But, I do want to acknowledge your question about structure and the implied consideration of the nature of power (is it unilateral or co-creative?) This question is also timely as we are increasingly seeing the realities that Tom Peters described in Thriving on Chaos 20 years ago, in which the employer-employee “contract” has been substantially dissolved and the boundaries between career and entrepreneurship have become increasingly blurred… What new structures are arising?¬†

 Thank you for bringing such an interesting discussion!


Ideological Inversion and Self-Deception (Illuminating dominator dynamics)

“It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party”–Nineteen Eighty-Four”

Ideological Inversion and Ideological Self-Deception

Lisa, thank you for ‘making the darkness conscious’ by examining the root system of slavery. I especially love your powerful and prescient comment, “In considering how perspective – especially the perspectives of the powerful – shape social structures that reinforce beliefs, it is further reasonable to assume that women and slaves, whose rational facilities were assumed to naturally “lack authority,” would be denied the educational and leisure opportunities that would enable them to effectively counter these assertions – if indeed those in power would listen, given that women and slaves “naturally lack authority.”

Why prescient? Because you reference two dimensions of thralldom that I believe parallel our modern experience: 1) Parasitism and 2) Ideological inversion of reality. Your canine companions will especially relate to threat from parasites-like fleas!

Slavery, says Patterson, is a relation of domination, a relation of “parasitism.” Patterson has much to say about parasitism. I’ll now attempt to encapsulate his treatment. I believe parasitism is one of the most important issues you and I will explore.

In parasitism:

-Dependence may or may not entail destruction of the host
-The host may be dependent on the parasite
-The parasitism may be only a minor nuisance

As a parasite, the slaveholder camouflaged his dependence, his parasitism, by 1) ideological inversion of reality, and 2) ideological self-deception. This former technique, says Patterson, camouflages a relation by defining it as the opposite of what it really is. Isn’t that profound? Ideological inversion of reality camouflages a relation by defining it as the opposite of what it really is.

Who was responsible for creating the ideological inversion of reality? The slaveholder class. Were almost all masters insincere? No. “They genuinely believed that they cared and provided for their slaves and that it was the slaves who had been raised to depend on others.”

“Southern slaveholders,” says Patterson, “were hardly exceptional in their ideological self-deception. The same inversion of reality was to be found among slaveholders everywhere:

“We use other people’s feet when we go out, we use other people’s eyes to recognize things, we use another person’s memory to greet people, we use someone else’s help to stay alive-the only things we keep for ourselves are our pleasures” Pliny the Elder, a slaveholder (quoted in Patterson).

I’ll now attempt to epitomize the relation of parasites and their hosts.


The slaveholders (as parasites):
-defined the slave as dependent

-genuinely believed that they cared and provided for their slaves

-held that it was the slaves who had been raised to depend on them and others (this is ideological self-deception)

-believed (along with the community) that the slave existed only through the parasite holder, who was called the master

-fed on the slave to gain the very direct satisfactions of power over another, honor, enhancement, and authority

-rendered the slave the ideal human tool due to natal alienation and genealogical isolation (i.e., separated from family and kin).

“The slave, losing in the process all claim to autonomous power, was degraded and reduced to a state of liminality” (a marginal status) p.337. Parenthesis mine.

How did the slave resist her desocialization and forced service? By:

-striving for some measure of regularity and predictability in her social life

-yearning for dignity

-becoming acutely sensitive to the realities of community.

The slave’s zest for life and fellowship confounded the slaveholder class. The slave’s existential dignity of the slave belied the slaveholder’s denial of its existence.

Patterson sketches the covert antagonism between the classes thus:


-“retaliated ideologically by stereotyping the slave as a lying, cowardly, lazy buffoon devoid of courage and manliness,

-retaliated existentially: by refusing to be among his fellow slaves the degraded creature he was made out to be,

-fed the parasite’s timocratic character with the pretence that she was what she was supposed to be. She served while concealing her soul and fooling the parasite. “play fool, to catch wise.”


“All slaves, like oppressed peoples everywhere, wore masks in their relations with those who had parasitized them. Occasionally a slave, feeling he had nothing to lose, would remove the mask and make it clear to the slaveholder that he understood the parasitic nature of their interaction.”


“However firm their belief in their ideological definition of the slave relation, slaveholders simply could not deny the stark fact that their slaves served under duress: a combination of punishments and rewards was essential.”


Slaveholders knew that incentives were better than punishments to promote efficient service.


“The well-looked-after slave redounded to the generosity and honor of the slaveholder.” The slave’s response “emphasized the slave’s apparent “dependence” and gave credence to the paternalism that the parasite craved.”

Patterson’s discussion of parasitism is provocative, is it not Lisa? As always, I look forward to your comments. Thank you for including the neglected dimensions (e.g., feminism).

Bye for now,


I hear the sea gulls squawking outside my kitchen window. I wonder what’s bothering them? It’s raining here today. I guess I better wear my Wellingtons (gum boots) on the sea wall. I could just write an ode to my boots. Though they cost less than $10, they’ve been a godsend. “Adventure in ideas.” I like the sound of that!

Adding Gender to the Analysis of Thralldom (Dominator Dynmaics)

I love your term, “messays.” It’s certainly appropriate to a blog — especially this one, which is, to borrow the title of one of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s books, an “adventure in ideas.”

Freire’s analysis substantially overlaps the a feminist and womanist analysis, which isn’t surprising, given our cultural history in which women were considered to be inferior human beings (relative to men) and therefore¬†accorded the status of property.

Ecofeminist philosopher Charlene Spretnak observes that a hierarchal, utiliatrian (even adversarial) stance towards the natural world had profound implications for women, who as birth-givers, have historically been habitually (though not inevitably) associated with nature: cultural attitudes towards nature tend to coincide with attitudes towards women (Ortner 1974; Sanday 1981).

This was certainly true in classic Greek thought: men were understood to participate in divine rationality, whereas women were understood to either lack the rational soul principle or to be deficient in this regard, and therefore part of the natural matrix that men sought to transcend in their quest for the divine. Thus, divine-world and mind-body dichotomies mirrored the “natural” dichotomy of male and female: the left-hand term was understood to be masculine and superior, and the right-hand term was feminine and inferior (Code What Can She Know 29).

The heart of the male-female dichotomy is captured by the classical Greek understanding of conception: according to Aristotle, man provides the active principle and rational (human) soul; woman, who lacks the soul principle, contributes the body (Aristotle “On the Generation of Animals” 278, S737a; Shepherd 4). If the soul-principle in the male seed is able to overcome the pull of (female) matter, a male child results; otherwise the result is a female child – who is, essentially, a defective male (Aristotle, The Politics of Aristotle 13: S1254b and 327: S1335b; Shepherd 4).

Thus, in this train of thought, it is the male who is considered fully human. (This speaks also to our culturally inherited view of animals as automatons. As a “parent” to two very smart dogs, I can say that this is not true in my experience!)

The relationship between knowledge and power is self-sustaining, as we can see in Aristotle’s rendering of gendered reality:

“[M]ale rules over the female, or the man over the child; although the parts of the soul are present in all of them, they are present in different degrees. For the slave has no deliberative faculty at all; the woman has, but it is without authority, and the child has, but it is immature” (“Politics” 1260b; Code 9 n. 5).

(Tellingly, in light of the power dynamics, even the male slave is thought to have “no deliberative faculty at all.” Also,¬†the term “woman” here seems to refer to a female person¬†who is not a slave.)

Consequently, women and slaves attended to the material and bodily necessities of life – what de Beauvoir called “immanence,” while elite men concerned themselves with “transcendent” cultural projects, such as writing philosophy. Further the life experience shaped by such stark sex role separation might be seen to re-enforce for privileged males the sense of living in a “glass box” on top of nature; and for women a concern with the concrete facts of existence. ¬†

One analysis is that women (and all oppressed groups in general) share an experience of being “other” to economically and educationally privileged white males (Hurtado 833), and being the recipients of projections of men’s own embodiment and immanence (Anderson 32).¬† Similarly, J.B. Miller (1976) describes a sweeping commonality in the projections that dominants apply to subordinate groups. Given the power of the perceptions of dominant groups to shape reality, these commonalities may give rise to some similarities of experience amongst diverse “others” who may learn to conform to the expectations of dominants as a matter of survival.

With regard to race and gender, womanist philosopher Patricia Hill Collins observes that despite differences in social experience, there are substantial similarities between womanist and feminist perspectives:

“The search for the distinguishing features of an alternative epistemology used by African-American women reveals that values and ideas Africanist scholars identify as characteristically “Black” often bear remarkable resemblance to similar ideas claimed by feminist scholars as characteristically ‚Äėfemale.’¬† This similarity suggests that the material conditions of race, class, and gender oppression can vary dramatically and yet generate some uniformity in the epistemologies of subordinate groups” (207).

¬†In considering how perspective — especially the perspectives of the powerful — shape social structures that reinforce beliefs, it is further reasonable to assume that women and slaves, whose rational facilities were assumed to naturally “lack authority,” would be denied the educational and leisure opportunities that would enable them to effectively counter these assertions – if indeed those in power would listen, given the assumption that¬†these groups¬† “naturally lack authority.”

Of course, thankfully, the whole system (from philosophy, to psychology, to families, orgaizations, politics, etc.) has shifted so that a greater diversity of perspectives can be heard. Yet, it’s fair to say that many of our organizations and social structures are still shaped by dominator dynamics in our cultural inheritence.

I am writing this of course to suggest that integrating the consideration of gender opens up key psychological and social dynamics of dominator systems. It’s not simply a matter of including women as an historically oppressed class (certainly,¬†economic class, race, and other factors come into play as well), but of noticing how¬†ideas and values surrounding gender have¬†shaped our psyches,¬†language, values and institutions.¬†¬†¬†

Thank you for mentioning Patterson’s analysis of the three facets of slavery: social, psychological, and cultural. I think it is very helpful to look at whole systems. Anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday also brings up the dimension of ecology/environment as a factor in the power relationships between women and men. I’ll save that for another time!

Best wishes,

P.S. We may have rain today — good writing weather!


Anderson, Pamela Sue. A Feminist Philosophy of Religion: The Rationality and Myths of Religious Belief. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1998.

Aristotle, The Complete Works of Aristotle. The Revised Oxford Translation. Ed. Jonathan Baines. Princeton, N.J.:Princeton University Press, 1984 (1912-52).

—. “On the Generation of Animals.” The Works of Aristotle. Trans. Arthur Platt from vol 2 of The Great Books of the Western World. Chicago: William Benton, 1952.

—. The Politics of Aristotle. Trans.E. Barker. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946.

—. Politics. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Basic Works of Artistotle. Ed. Richard McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.

Code, Lorraine. What Can She Know?: Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge. Ithica, New York: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Perspectives on Gender, Vol. 2. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Hurtado, Aida. “Relating to Privilege: Seduction and Rejection in the Subordination of White Women and Women of Color.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14 (Summer 1989).

Miller, Jean Baker. Toward a New Psychology of Women. 2nd ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.

Ortner, Sherry B. “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” Women, Culture, and Society. Ed. M.Z. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere. Stanford, CT: Stanford University Press: 67-88.

Sanday, Peggy Reeves. Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality. Cambridge, N.J.: Cambridge University Press, 1981

Shepherd, Linda Jean. Lifting the Veil: The Feminine Face of Science. Portland, OR: FireWord Publishing, Inc., 1993.

Spretnak, Charlene. Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature and Place in a Hypermodern World. New York: Routledge, 1999.