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The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined Paperback – September 25, 2012
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"My favorite book of the last decade is [Steven] Pinker's Better Angels of Our Nature. It is a long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time."--Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
"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."
Praise for THE STUFF OF THOUGHT
“The majesty of Pinker’s theories is only one side of the story. The other side is the modesty of how he built them. It all makes sense, when you look at it the right way.”
— The New York Times Book Review
“Packed with information, clear, witty, attractively written …”— The New York Review of Books
“Engaging and witty …Everyone with an interest in language and how it gets to be how it is—that is, everyone interested in how we get to be human and do our human business—should read THE STUFF OF THOUGHT.”— Science
Praise for THE BLANK SLATE
“An extremely good book—clear, well argued, fair, learned, tough, witty, humane, stimulating.”
— Colin McGinn, The Washington Post
“Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read…also highly persuasive.”— Time
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
1. Our evolution from hunter gatherers into settled civilizations, which he calls the Pacification Process.
2. The consolidation of small kingdoms and duchies into large kingdoms with centralized authority and commerce, which he calls the Civilizing Process.
3. The emergence of Enlightenment philosophy, and it's respect for the individual through what he calls the Humanitarian Revolution.
4. Since World War II, violence has been suppressed, first by the overwhelming force of the two parties in the Cold War, and more recently by the American hegemony. Pinker calls this the Long Peace.
5. The general trend, even apart from the Cold War, of wars to be more infrequent, and less violent, however autocratic and anti-democratic the governments may be. Call this the New Peace.
6. Lastly, the growth of peace and domestic societies, and with it the diminishing level of violence through small things like schoolyard fights, bullying, and picking on gays and minorities. He titles this the Rights Revolution.
Pinker then goes on to examine the traditional explanations of violence, the traditional explanations of human nature which account for violence. There is practical violence, which you might call necessary violence. Then there are dominance, revenge, sadism, and ideologically driven violence. Opposing these are what he calls the better angels of human nature, empathy, self-control, our moral sense, and reason. Many of these characteristics are shared with our primate brethren, the chimpanzees on down, but some of them are uniquely human.Read more ›
Pinker's sequence of the decline in violence is based on synthesis of a large volume of literature generated by archaeologists, ethnologists, historians, sociologists, political scientists, and psychologists. Pre-state societies, while low in absolute population and absolute number of violent acts, had very high per capita levels of violence. The emergence of states resulted in some decline in violence and the gradual strengthening of the state resulted in a progressive decline in interpersonal violence, even as states became more capable of waging war. This is best documented in Europe from the Middle Ages to the present. Pinker highlights a number of important parallel processes. The "Civilizing Process" described by the great historical sociologist Norbert Elias of the increasing importance of self-control, manners, and social amity from the Renaissance onwards is prominently featured as a key feature in the decline of violence. Similarly, Pinker emphasizes the humanitarianism of the Enlightenment and subsequent reform movements. In the 20th century, the "Rights Revolution" that has brought widespread acceptance of religious and ethnic minorities, women, and homosexuals, is also discussed as improving our societies.Read more ›
Pinker blows the reader away (forgive the violent metaphor) with sheer weight of analytical shot. At 700 pages of text interspersed with graphs and heaps of reference data, "Better Angels" is thorough-going and methodical because it has to be; contradicting common folk theories (like the noble savage), overriding an often overwhelming sense of unceasing or imminent violence from media coverage (see compassion fatigue), and compensating for a general lack of statistical thinking and probabilistic understanding in the lay public is no easy task. People are right to be skeptical of controversial theories, and knowing this Pinker has patiently lain it all out for us to see for ourselves that violence truly has declined with clear and unambiguously downward direction.
"Better Angels" is structured around an inventory of six Trends, five Inner Demons with four Better Angels, and five Historical Forces (Pinker can't help but enumerate).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Pinker has synthesized a history of humanity combined with science and psychology in a very convincing and well argued presentation. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Robert Judson
EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK. Best book I've read in years.Published 6 days ago by Ryan Hagerman
Optimism is an attitude aligned with reality. A must-read for the chicken littles of the word.Published 19 days ago by frank habets
Pinker's volume is well worth a read if you're concerned about the issue of violence in our modern world. Read morePublished 26 days ago by jsprat
At the beginning of his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker states that the book is large (700 plus pages) because it will take that... Read morePublished 28 days ago by John Martin
In the face of what feels like constant violence and ongoing denigration of our institutions, the author uses history and statistics to show violence has declined greatly over the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Linda
Any of Steven Pinker's books are excellent and thought provoking. This one analyses the changes over time with respect to the cultural acceptability of violence. Read morePublished 1 month ago by B. Kirkpatrick