The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
Why Violence Has Declined

60%

15 Critic Reviews

...the statistics he advances are problematic in any number of ways.
-Globe and Mail

Synopsis

Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year

The author of The New York Times bestseller The Stuff of Thought offers a controversial history of violence.

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 millennia 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, pogroms, gruesome 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 essence 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.

 

About Steven Pinker

See more books from this Author
Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of seven books, including The Blank Slate.
 
Published October 4, 2011 by Penguin Books. 844 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Political & Social Sciences, Science & Math, War, Education & Reference, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 30 2011
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Better Angels of Our Nature
All: 15 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 10

Guardian

Good
on Nov 19 2012

...it is something more than a science book: it is an epic history by an optimist who can list his reasons to be cheerful and support them with persuasive instances.

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Guardian

Below average
on Oct 07 2012

...the time scale of just a few centuries is far too short for the work of natural selection.

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Guardian

Above average
on Sep 22 2011

Does our gradual move away from violence towards civility leave us better or worse equipped to deal with the next great calamity when it comes? No one can know, and Pinker does not pretend to provide an answer.

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WSJ online

Good
on Oct 01 2011

It is a masterly effort to explain what Mr. Pinker regards as one of the biggest changes in human history...

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Financial Times

Excellent
on Oct 07 2011

...this is a marvellous synthesis of science, history and storytelling, demonstrating how fortunate the vast majority of us are today to experience serious violence only through the mass media.

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Globe and Mail

Below average
on Oct 14 2011

...the statistics he advances are problematic in any number of ways.

Read Full Review of The Better Angels of Our Natu... | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

The Telegraph

Above average
on Dec 12 2011

Pinker is an engaging and accessible theorist...But by the end of 700 pages, I had serious data fatigue and experiment overload.

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The Telegraph

Good
on Oct 28 2011

Convincing and well argued, Pinker’s book is not for anyone with an aversion to gore.

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Christian Science Monitor

Below average
on Oct 20 2011

Where Pinker goes wrong – sometimes deeply wrong – is in some of his...explanations of these phenomena. He is far too optimistic about the irreversibility of progress that has been made.

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Slate

Excellent
on Oct 03 2011

...Better Angels is a monumental achievement. His book should make it much harder for pessimists to cling to their gloomy vision of the future.

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The Daily Beast

Above average
on Oct 03 2011

...he thinks that his message will lead not to complacency but to action...Starry-eyed? Maybe.

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PopMatters

Below average
on Apr 20 2012

Pinker’s attempt to remove reason from the moral equation is...questionable.

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New York Magazine

Above average
on Oct 16 2011

...he fails to look deeply enough at how we succumbed to the temptation as soon as it became expedient.

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Scientific American

Below average
on Oct 07 2011

The biggest problem with the book, though, is its overreliance on history, which, like the light on a caboose, shows us only where we are not going.

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BigThink.com

Below average
on May 11 2012

...I did find the book to have some weak parts. I think that at times he's too reliant on an overly simplistic model of evolutionary psychology...

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Reader Rating for The Better Angels of Our Nature
81%

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