Why do people vote for “strong” leaders who condone violence, debase women, and stoke fear and scapegoating? If free elections alone are not the answer, what will it take to build a caring democracy that promotes the wellbeing and full development of all people? This paper examines these questions from a perspective that takes into account the connection between politics and economics, on one hand, and what children first experience and observe in their family and other intimate relations, on the other. It describes the study of relational dynamics, a multidisciplinary method of analysis that reveals social categories that transcend conventional ones: the partnership system and the domination system. It looks at modern history through the lens of the partnership-domination social scale, focusing on the struggle between the movement toward partnership and regressions to domination. It compares the integrated regressive worldview and political agenda with the fragmented progressive one. It identifies four cornerstones for partnership or domination systems: family/childhood, gender, economics, narratives/language. It then details how to build these cornerstones so they support a more humane, caring, and sustainable future, and provides practical resources for this urgent task.


democracy, politics, political agenda, regressives, progressives, domination, partnership, children, gender, narratives, language, economics, caring democracy, values, demagogues, elections, fear, misogyny, human development

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Publication Date




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.