The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined Steven Pinkerton Viking 2011
This book by Steven Pinker (The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate) is truly a tome. I’ve been reduced to actually having to buy a copy – I’m racking up library fines as I write, there’s a long waiting list for this through the library! Not a simple book to get throught. And content wise, it’s up there with Power’s “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide), Elkins “Imperial Reckoning” and Bradley’s “Imperial Cruise”. Seminal works, not readable in a single sitting – and worth more than one read.
An examination of violence in history, sometimes graphic (Warning – this book can cause nightmares…) showing how “people” are getting more peaceful. Not from any religious sensibility – in fact, religion comes off pretty bad in this history, but from a kind of cognitive evolution out of societies (all earth’s societies…) “moral retardation”. In researching options for buying a copy I ran across a small number of reviews who strongly disliked this work, pointing out that Pinker comes from a very “Western” viewpoint of violence and ignores many types of violence (such as economic or environmental) that perhaps should be included in the equation.
Anyway, I’ve come nowhere close to finishing this book. I did skim the chapter on genocide – which has some very interesting insights. I will revisit this review once I get my copy of the book (on order) – and find enough time to read it!