The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined Hardcover – Oct 4 2011
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"For anyone interested in human nature, the material is engrossing, and when the going gets heavy, Pinker knows how to lighten it with ironic comments and a touch of humor ... a supremely important book. To have command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement." — The New York Times Book Review
"...an extraordinary range of research ... a masterly effort." — The Wall Street Journal
" ...Better Angels is a monumental achievement. His book should make it much harder for pessimists to cling to their gloomy vision of the future. Whether war is an ancient adaptation or a pernicious cultural infection, we are learning how to overcome it." — Slate.com
About the Author
Steven Pinker is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. A two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and the winner of many awards for his research, teaching, and books, he has been named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World Today and Foreign Policy's 100 Global Thinkers.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Almost the first half of the book is spent discussing the evidence for how violence has declined in the form of homicides, torture, war, genocide, and terrorism. Frankly, as someone who's read a lot of anthropological accounts of violence, as well as historical accounts, I didn't need to be convinced of this. We live in a candy cake la-la land compared to just about any of our ancestors. The section on torture alone is enough to make your toes curl. Water-boarding in Gitmo was (is?) terrible, but it's a walk in the park compared to the regular torture methods of medieval Europe. Or the Mongols, Huron, Iroquois, Aztecs, etc. War, especially larger wars, have all but disappeared since WW2. For all these data, Pinker tries to offer explanations why. For example, Pinker is reluctant to give much credit to nukes for the drop in wars since WW2, but I have to disagree with him here. Nukes bring something to the table that's entirely new- Mutually Assured Destruction. They take the uncertainty out of war (e.g, Hitler's Soviet gamble) and replace it with certain death for both winner and loser. No thanks!Read more ›
It's a beautiful, massive undertaking. Throughly researched and obviously long in the making. I can imagine Steven Pinker reading through his life and an idea slowly starting to gestate. On the shoulders of giants our civilization stands, and this book is no different. Pinker has taken thoughts, research, and ideologies that have helped shape our world and drawn them together into, if nothing else, a touching premise: Violence has Declined.
This book is more than that premise, yet focused all the same. It draws from history, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, criminology, and many other disciplines. It is the nature of such a broad topic that it must. I'm more than halfway through the book right now, and if I had to offer up what it has invoked in me in a few words they would be: hopeful, thoughtful, troubling, inspiring, and all around impressed.
You can get an introduction to the book through an audio lecture by Pinker at the RSA:
Despite it seeming that violence has increased (after all, when does the news ever report on peace?), the statistics show that violence has in fact decreased in almost every way. Pinker has some interesting ideas about why that is.
The main reason according to the book is that humans are becoming more civilized by the decade -- the average murder rate sharply declining from each century to the next; the decreasing occurrence and increasing unpopularity of all major countries to war; continued progress toward a more ethical treatment of animals; etc. Basically, I agree with most of Pinker's arguments here (in the book, he uses many statistics to back up each of his claims). His observations seem to ring true for most of humanity (with the exception of religious fundamentalism in the Middle East region).
Even if you think you disagree with Pinker's premise, I'd encourage you to read the book and then decide for yourself. It's a fascinating read and one that is very accessible to the layperson.
Most recent customer reviews
Takes time but it's worth it. I don't particularly like Pinker's writing style but he makes his point and it's worth reading for the sociologist.Published 4 months ago by Michael Kearney
This is by far one of the most important books I've ever read. Especially in the current climate we live in.Published 5 months ago by Faduma Abdi
Superb book, well researched, well written, persuasively argued. A welcome antidote to the usual gloom and doom.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Highly recommended. Especially in light of the fact that our view of the state of the world is severely jaded by the fact that journalism focuses almost exclusively on the... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Brian
Right up there with "Guns, Germs and Steel" in terms of its potential for transforming one's world view. Comprehensive and scholarly. Well organized and edited. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Gina Louise
Interesting book that is a counter-point to all the doomsday over-reporting in our modern media. Everyone should read it.Published 12 months ago by Reuben
This is clearly not an easy book to read - incredible amounts of information, analysis, interpretation and judgement. Read morePublished 17 months ago by R^5
An excellent book, supported well with scientific data.Published 19 months ago by Ley Milton Davison
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