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"Eros/Power: Relational Action Inquiry integrating subjectivity, inter-subjectivity and objectivity."

A week in dialogue with the authors Hilary Bradbury and Bill Torbert based on their recently released book Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry (Integral Publishers, 2016).

When: June 13th – June 17th

Slides from the webinar:  Slides_ErosPowerDialogue.pdf

Let's continue the conversation online here. Everyone is welcome to continue posting questions and comments below.  

Our Invitation: At the heart of our book and hopefully of our conversation lies an inquiry into the interweaving of eros and power in love and work. Although both of us are professors of organization (management) in the action research domain, our voices in this book rarely rise to the third-person professorial, but mostly sound instead in much more vulnerable first- and second-person tones.  Some of our most heated debate starts, ironically, in a PhD seminar on Qualitative Research Methods. The book intends dialogue with a form that alternates autobiographical chapters about psycho-spiritual- erotic development and include our relationship with one another.  We invite a deeper dive into the themes of love, gender, privilege and what it means for how we live our inquiry together.   

Reading for the week: This link is to the book information page which contains both a free sample from the book, authors bios and various reviewers comments:

Please join in if you are interested in the interweaving of eros and power in love and work, if you are interested in picking up the developmental question of how to move to action given our understanding of the socially constructed nature of our lives, or if you are interested in the practice of deep relational inquiry in action, and/or how, more generally, inquiry can become an integration of first, second and third person voices as in the case in contemporary action research (see Bradbury, The Handbook of Action Research, 2015, Sage Publications:

Buy the book here:

Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry Love-Spirit-Inquiry/dp/1495159140/taosinstitute-20

Meet the Authors

Hilary Bradbury, Professor, Editor in Chief, Action Research journal – See:

Bill Torbert, Professor Emeritus, Principal of Action Inquiry Associates – See: torbert/bill-torbert

Questions to Explore

1. Can you approach love in a way that opens your eyes rather than blinds you?

2. Can you love passionately, compassionately, and dispassionately all at once?

3. Can you love non-possessively but with commitment?

4. Can you love inquiringly, bringing benefit to your beloveds?

5. What is the relationship between your spiritual life and embodied love?

6. How are we each to engage this great life adventure, in spite of our unique wounds?

E-mail me when people leave their comments –


  • Just want to welcome everyone to this conversation.  I look forward to seeing your comments and questions... Bill Torbert

    • Hi Bill! You capture my sentiments exactly.  Welcome everyone.

      I wonder what, at its best, can this conversation rise to? I hope we can combine at least two things: inquiry together about the "love" theme (as in the questions above) and then also a meta-inquiry where we think together about how first person (personal), second person (inter-personal) and third person (cultural forming) inquiry/practice interweave.  Where power and love interweave. That is the developmental work we mean by the term 'Eros/Power.'  

      I happen to feel inspired by the light and the Solstice coming.  This means for me as a Dubliner that Bloomsday, a celebration of the famous Dublin novel by Joyce called Ulysses, is close (Thursday). This famously difficult novel still feels relevant to our inquiry now because it is, simply said, about love, not hatred. At the heart of the novel, baited by a violent jingoist in a pub (prefiguring the club in Orlando where 50 were murdered?), Bloom responds, ''That's not life for men and women, insult and hatred,'' ''it's the very opposite,'' ''Love says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred.'' 

      So if one of the great gifts of our life is getting to learn together about love, about mutuality, we might ask how do we help ourselves and others get along, with ordinary decency and tolerance, so we can address the pressing issues of our time. This is a developmental journey. It requires some practice together. And I look forward to the dialogue...

      xxx, Hilary

  • Hi Hilary and Bill.  It's an honour to share this time and virtual space with you both.

    Great questions!  I'm drawn to #4 Can you love inquiringly, bringing benefit to your beloveds?

    I am holding a space for relational inquiry with my beloved.  I trust that it will emerge in our our day-to-day relationship and its interactions and intimacies.  I wonder, though, about what may stay entangled in past dynamics if either of us has a deliberate intent to bring benefit to the other.  Is loving inquiringly not enough of an action in itself, whose power and enthusiasm for growth in connection is attractive and infectious?


  • Hi Alastair,

    Thanks for starting us off!  Of course, an important early step in relational inquiry is to explore whether both mutually-beloveds wish to hold a space for relational inquiry between them, and to explore some how each envisions that space.  In some cases, even this step is difficult.  One may feel that such inquiry sounds to 'heady' or psychoanalytical.  And, indeed, it's important that the inquiry include one another's 'felt sense' and feelings, as well as a sense of how touch itself can be inquiring, if the relationship has a sexual flavor to it.  

    In the book, we show how Hilary's and my 'erotic conversation' turned into a fight and then a year of not-speaking, then an apparently full reconciliation that turned out 20 years later not to have touched still deeper layers.  One of the reasons I have found developmental theory so helpful in understanding myself and others is that it indicates how vast the journey is, with how many inner transformations, before we appreciate and at least occasionally transcend our cultural and historical conditioning...

    I could go on, but I'd rather hear more from you and others first...


    • It is that first step, I think, and the difficulty is only in my expectation of it.  An invitation to explore how each of us experiences ourselves and each other in this space then reifies our relational inquiry - is my fantasy - and we may begin to compare where we are on our journey with where each of us thinks we are going, or even what each of us envisages as a destination.  At the moment, I have much more positive energy and, I hope, infectious enthusiasm, for inquiringly loving as action whose effectiveness is reciprocated in loving action that is an exploration of the changing space in our relationship.  Something relational and loving is happening, and we are non-consciously experiencing it in pathic ways.  In naming it as a relational inquiry I fear that it will become something else.

  • Hello everyone, Let's get this conversation started. Please join in. Ask question, make a comment, refer to the book, anything that is on your mind and in your heart. Thank you Bill and Hilary for being our week in dialogue with the authors. 

  • Hi again Alastair,

    Your most recent comment gets close to the epicenter of a dilemma we all constantly forget that we're facing -- namely, that all our inquiries occur in action, so that the content of our words is either in or out of harmony with the rhythm of our inter-actions, and it is this congruity or incongruity that most strongly communicates itself to our partner(s) in inquiry, even if they themselves can't quite articulate that (or recognize the incongruities in their own responses. 

    In my own case, a lot about my background -- my parents' only-child and WASP background, my finding myself in a minority that didn't speak the majority's language at school because my father's Foreign Service postings landed me in Spanish, Austrian, and French schools, etc. -- made me unaware of how conflict-avoidant I was, even as I became professionally committed to confronting differences non-judgmentally.  Also, I learned a lot about how to exercise power mutually with women in my micro-interactions, without for a long time fully realizing the degree to which my male/class/educational privilege continued to envelope me (at least for some women) in an aura of macro-unilateral-power.

    It was only once Hilary and I committed ourselves to thrashing through this book, at the same time as both of us joined a wider 'community of inquiry' (approximately half and half male and female), that both of us have faced and accepted our shadows more fully.  But, since power, love, and inquiry have for centuries been treated as mutually alien, it seems a worthy lifetime task to learn how they can become mutual and mutually-transforming...

    • Bill, throughout my reading of Eros/Power, Hilary's words asserted a dominant tone, and yours almost a submissive quality. It read nicely as a Yin-Yang piece, and well-illustrated the interplay of oppositional/complimentary thinking.

      That said ... I can't help but wonder ... what if your voice (and views) was the initiating one for Eros/Power? The claim of WASPiness got in the way for me ... as if apologizing for a cultural stereotype for which the ascribed behaviors exist more in the minds of the 'accuser', and less in the action of the 'accused'.

      ... talking out loud here (yikes!) ... Jean : )

      • Yes, I liked how it was the woman whose tone was more assured, and the man whose tone was more faltering...

        And yes, I find the more one plumbs issues of social privilege, the more complex and intertwined they become between the eyes, minds, and actions of the beholders and those of the beheld. Again, I find that developmental theory helps me here.  'Postmodern criticism' is an enormously important move to bring otherwise invisible elements of institutional power into view.  Only so, can they become vulnerable to transformation. But they can only be transformed by concerted action that is itself vulnerable to transformation if further action inquiry suggests it's off-target. We are, as a global civilization, just at the outset of learning about and developing such capacities (the field of adult development itself didn't exist in the early 1970s). 

        In Hilary's and my relationship, there were at the outset differences of gender, age, institutional power, and social status that made mutuality difficult, even though we were both inclined in that direction.  Twenty years later, our institutional power and social status became more nearly equal, she became less 'invulnerable,' and I less 'needy,' and lo and behold we birthed a creative conversation and book.

  • How to step into a conversation about 'love' that is hidden and has its dark sides ... and discuss in the mixed judgments of personal vulnerability, mutual expectation, and societal norm ... that's what Bill and Hilary have stirred up in my mind ...

    And I am far from ready to take action on this (lol) ... even this self-inquiry is feeling somewhat risqué (which was my initial reaction to reading of Eros/Power) ... but I will rise to the challenge here and engage with the unknown others in ourselves and with each other (scary!) ...

    I've put away all those 'curiosities' (which others don't need to know the details of), forgetting the painful and at times shameful moments; but in light of Eros/Power, are we to make room for the once forbidden or forsaken power of eroticism (attraction), and/or recognize the eroticism (attractiveness) of power that mingles, meddles, or muddles our otherwise rational affairs? how?

    Perhaps a starting point for this conversation is, 'what's our association (experiences) with eros'?

    Quietly, Jean : )

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