Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes
Riane Eisler
The Chalice & the Blade: Our History, Our Future
HarperCollins / HarperCollins
US Trade Paperback Reprint Edition
ISBN 0-06-2520289-1
Publication Date: 09-21-1988
262 Pages; $18.99
Date Reviewed: 01-22-2014
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2014


The cutting edge has been around for a long time, and 'The Chalice & the Blade' by Riane Eisler is a great example. This twenty-five year-old work of non-fiction offers a superb analysis of culture and economics from an outsider perspective. Unlike many books of this nature, the ensuing years have been kind to Eisler's signature work. It seems to have taken us a generation to grow up enough to begin to wrap our brains around the truths she saw then that now seem self-evident.

Starting with Paleolithic and Neolithic archaeology and reaching into the 20th century and beyond, Eisler is intent on toppling hierarchical society, what she calls the "Dominator Model" and replacing it with the Shared Partnership model, which she demonstrates is neither new nor innovative, but instead, the natural order. She backs up her assertions with smart writing and engaging prose that takes readers, step by step from a beneficent past to a profitable future.

In the process, expect to have your visions of politics, society, technology and economics upended and brought back into focus. For this reader, her perceptions of how ancient technologies, such as metallurgy, became entwined with the creation of Dominator-modeled societies are particularly pertinent in the 21st century. Ubiquitous technology and networks have not changed the landscape — they have become the landscape. 'The Chalice & the Blade' is a book that finds the reader engaging with the text in a manner reminiscent of the best science fiction; it makes you think and seek new ideas within your own experience. This is not to say that the work is in any way speculative. Eisler back up her theories with hard science and data fit for a popular audience.

Eisler goes beyond mere description to prescription, with some visions of what can be done and more intriguingly, the limits of what we can imagine. The essence here is not to simply describe two opposing models of society, but first, to place them outside of current categories of right/left, capitalist/social, misogyny/misanthropy. Eisler considers much of the oppositional extremes in current dialogue to be distractions, meant to sustain the (we hope) fading Dominator model.

The book keeps a tight grip on the reader with Eisler's understanding of cultural transformation, which is the means of taking us forward or backward. The general trend over the long measure is forward, but the 20th and the 21st century provide plenrty of examples of regression as opposed to progression. With 'The Chalice & the Blade,' Eisler's ability to identify the problem is a large part of the solution.

Back in 1988, Riane Eisler was deeply immersed in what we might call today a cultural singularity, a series of changes beyond which our ability to model what might happen ends. But it is clear that humanity can and must move towards Eisler's sharing partnership model. It's the cutting edge — for one generation and counting.

Review Archive
All Reviews alphabetized by author.

General Fiction
Non-Genre, general fiction and literature.

Supernatural fiction, supernatural horror and non-supernatural horror.

Science Fiction
Science fiction, science fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history.

Fantasy, surrealism and magic realism.

Crime, thrillers, mystery, suspense.

Non-Fiction, True Crime, Forteana, Reference.


Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us