The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes

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Allen Lane, 2011 - Nonviolence - 802 pages
This riveting, myth-destroying book reveals how, contrary to popular belief, humankind has become progressively less violent, over millenia and decades. Can violence really have declined? The images of conflict we see daily on our screens from around the world suggest this is an almost obscene claim to be making. Extraordinarily, however, Steven Pinker shows violence within and between societies - both murder and warfare - really has declined from prehistory to today. We are much less likely to die at someone else's hands than ever before. Even the horrific carnage of the last century, when compared to the dangers of pre-state societies, is part of this trend. Debunking both the idea of the 'noble savage' and an over-simplistic Hobbesian notion of a 'nasty, brutish and short' life, Steven Pinker argues that modernity and its cultural institutions are actually making us better people. He ranges over everything from art to religion, international trade to individual table manners, and shows how life has changed across the centuries and around the world - not simply through the huge benefits of organized government, but also because of the extraordinary power of progressive ideas. Why has this come about? And what does it tell us about ourselves? It takes one of the world's greatest psychologists to have the ambition and the breadth of understanding to appreciate and explain this story, to show us our very natures.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Phil-James - LibraryThing

Although it took me a long time to read, (this is a very dense book, well written but full of examples of statistics) I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Steven Pinker proves that our world ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - booktsunami - LibraryThing

This is a very big book packed with information so pretty hard to summarise. But I'll try (for my own benefit rather than for any readers). Pinker's basic thesis is that violence of various sorts has ... Read full review

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About the author (2011)

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as The New York Times, Time and Slate, and is the author of six books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate and The Stuff of Thought.

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