Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry. Transforming How Women and Men Relate

I have a little more trepidation than usual with this blogpost. Partly it’s because it’s about my new book, co-authored with Bill Torbert, Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry. Transforming How Women and Men Relate. So you have it handy, here’s the Amazon link.

To talk about your own work is always a little tricky.

Yet the book has many elements that will make it recognizable to action researchers, for at its heart, it is a book about bringing inquiry to our own male/female power dynamics. We wonder whether men under patriarchy — i.e., the most profoundly privileged class with the least self-interest in critiquing and transforming the source of their power and love, can partner with women who may initially be called upon as primary in the leadership of widespread mutuality among the genders, the races, etc.? My colleague in leadership coaching Amiel Handelsman helped me talk about this work – Check out the Amiel Show for a radio interview about the application of our ideas to the workplace.

But I think my trepidation may also stem also from the fact that our book looks intently to the arena of the relational, a domain that largely remains hidden in most action research work especially if there are tricky attraction dynamics, the type mixed up with different access to power.

As Chuck Palus, Center for Creative Leadership writes:

“This book is a marvelous invitation to love and be loved. It’s not for the timid. Hilary and Bill take us from a place of innocence to a place of eros where all taboos are broken, while leading us into a soulful inquiry about what love is and why it matters. This book charts the sexual revolution, and yet takes us much further. It’s all about sexual evolution and the next phase of human consciousness, in which friendship, love, work, and altruism weave together into an ecstatic, thoughtful, and deeply caring vision of life well lived.”

We define eros as the soul surging forth to know the other, to learn from and grow with and through that other, a surging that brings with it love. In this book we suggest that relationships between women and men (or more precisely between the feminine and the masculine that embodies us in different measure) can lead an evolutionary leap. But are we up to it?

Patricia Gaya, Center for Action Research allows that while at times, this makes for some difficult reading nonetheless …

”we would be doing the authors, and ourselves, a huge disservice if we were to engage with this book at a purely voyeuristic level. The book is nothing if not personal and political.”

So let that be the briefest description of the book and its reason for being: the work is political. And personal. And important. We invite you to bring powers of inquiry and relationship building to co-creating transformational relationships of mutuality which can help evolve us as a species.

How is the possibility of inquiry into inter-gendered relationships relevant to action research more generally?

I was asked by Steve Waddell of Networking Action, in his series on large systems change asked me to comment on the work of Generations for Peace who are active in Syrian refugee camps. What struck me, along with my deep appreciation for Mark Clark and colleagues’ effort was, the enormous impact of gender. The action researchers in the project negotiated to get some out-of-view softball practice for young girls. Wow, it took multiple negotiations just to allow the young girls – otherwise locked up in their family tents, preventing mothers from revenue seeking work – to play games in the refugee camps! By my standards these are deranged – yet unnamed because normal – levels of male dominance. Even when allowed, the girls’ play area was to be blocked from view, at all costs. Obliterating the feminine from the public space seemed more important than eating to these Medieval men in charge.

Gender Matters! Many of us believe that cultures can, indeed, must move from condoning relational abuse and violence to celebrating nurture and mutuality. Indeed this is the fundamental evolutionary shift we are interested in advancing in some small way through our book. Relationality, in its broader meaning of acting in coherence with communal and relational power and inquiry, is a key resource for this transformation. Justin Trudeau’s recent appointment of a 50/50 women-and-men Cabinet is one male mutuality-enhancing action leading the way.

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