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The Better Angels of Our Nature

Why Violence Has Declined

by Steven Pinker


Faced with the ceaseless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, one could easily think we live in the most violent age ever seen. Yet as New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows in this startling and engaging new work, just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millenia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species's existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, programs, gruesom punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows (with the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps) all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned. How has this happened?

This groundbreaking book continues Pinker's exploration of the esesnce of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly nonviolent world. The key, he explains, is to understand our intrinsic motives--the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away--and how changing circumstances have allowed our better angels to prevail. Exploding fatalist myths about humankind's inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious and provocative book is sure to be hotly debated in living rooms and the Pentagon alike, and will challenge and change the way we think about our society.

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Recommendations: 1

Categories: Politics & Social SciencesHistoryPsychology & Mental HealthPhilosophySociology

Reading time: 3134 hours

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Eric Schmidt
Former Chairman of Alphabet Inc.

I think the one that has had the biggest impact on me and the one that I’ve given the most number of people has been [The Better Angels of Our Nature]. And [The Better Angels of Our Nature] is a 700-page book on death. And it’s written by a brilliant Harvard professor who talks at great length about death rates and the human condition. And he spends a lot of time talking about what happened 200, 300, 400, 500 years ago. And when you finish the book, which takes a long time, you conclude that the world is in a much, much better place than it has been in the past, that a thousand years ago, the average man died in a war and the average woman died in pregnancy in their 20s, and that a child born today has a very high likelihood in almost all parts of the world to live to a natural old age. That’s an extraordinary statement. And that’s why the people who run around saying, “Oh, the world’s falling apart. We’ve never had it this bad.” That’s just not true. And the data says it’s not true.