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... read more
This book runs the numbers, statistics, to demonstrate how, since the inception of the Leviathan (civilization), violence has been decreasing in the world: most especially the developed world. The author does not simply offer the numbers and stop. Steven Pinker also exams the statistics and... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
This book runs the numbers, statistics, to demonstrate how, since the inception of the Leviathan (civilization), violence has been decreasing in the world: most especially the developed world. The author does not simply offer the numbers and stop. Steven Pinker also exams the statistics and explains them. Sometimes he even cross-references these.
However, the books does not stop there. Along with the statistics he offers an analytical history of where we've come from and some cautious suggestions about where we may be going.
Ideologically it is safe to place Dr. Pinker (originally from Montreal) in the American Progressivist end of the ideological spectrum. This, occasionally, becomes a little difficult to take but if you can read through this the book is well worth the effort.
Note on the Kindle edition:
End-notes and the index are not activated so it is very difficult to engage fully with the text. The author and publisher should fix this problem.
“Across time and space, the more peaceable societies also tend to be richer, healthier, better educated, better governed, more respectful of their women, and more likely to engage in trade. It's not easy to tell which of these happy traits got the virtuous circle started and which went along for the ride, and it's tempting to resign oneself to unsatisfying circularities, such as that violence declined because the culture got less violent. (pg 15)”
“The only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers, those who are still breast-feeding their babies.”Tsutomu Yamaguchi (survivor of two nuclear strikes)
“women are better off in societies in which they stay with their birth family under the wing of their fathers and brothers, and their husbands are visitors, than in societies in which they move in with their husband's clan and are dominated by their husbands and his kin.”
“... giving women more control over their reproductive capacity (always the contested territory in the biological battle of the sexes) may be the single most effective way of reducing violence in the dangerous parts of the world today.”
“Several varieties of feminization...--direct political empowerment, the deflation of manly honor, the promotion of marriage on women's terms, the right of girls to be born, and women's control over their own reproduction--have been forces in the decline of violence. The parts of the world that lag in this historical march are the parts that lag in the decline of violence.”
When a tendency toward violence evolves, it is always strategic.Highlighted by 57 Kindle customers
Sensibilities toward violence have changed so much that religious people today compartmentalize their attitude to the Bible. They pay it lip service as a symbol of morality, while getting their actual morality from more modern principles.Highlighted by 57 Kindle customers
Across time and space, the more peaceable societies also tend to be richer, healthier, better educated, better governed, more respectful of their women, and more likely to engage in trade.Highlighted by 52 Kindle customers
A culture of honor—the readiness to take revenge—gave way to a culture of dignity—the readiness to control one’s emotions.Highlighted by 45 Kindle customers
The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence, and often the attitudes are in the lead.Highlighted by 44 Kindle customers
ideology is a shared belief system, usually involving a vision of utopia, that justifies unlimited violence in pursuit of unlimited good.Highlighted by 36 Kindle customers
escalator of reason—can force people to recognize the futility of cycles of violence, to ramp down the privileging of their own interests over others’, and to reframe violence as a problem to be solved rather than a contest to be won.Highlighted by 33 Kindle customers
As Europe became more urban, cosmopolitan, commercial, industrialized, and secular, it got safer and safer.Highlighted by 32 Kindle customers
It saw the first organized movements to abolish socially sanctioned forms of violence like despotism, slavery, dueling, judicial torture, superstitious killing, sadistic punishment, and cruelty to animals, together with the first stirrings of systematic pacifism. Historians sometimes call this transition the Humanitarian Revolution.Highlighted by 31 Kindle customers
If our first nature consists of the evolved motives that govern life in a state of nature, and our second nature consists of the ingrained habits of a civilized society, then our third nature consists of a conscious reflection on these habits, in which we evaluate which aspects of a culture’s norms are worth adhering to and which have outlived their usefulness.Highlighted by 29 Kindle customers
Chapter 1: A Foreign Country
Chapter 2: The Pacification Process
Chapter 3: The Civilizing Process
Chapter 4: The Humanitarian Revolution
Chapter 5: The Long Peace
Chapter 6: The New Peace
Chapter 7: The Rights Revolutions
Chapter 8: Inner Demons
Chapter 9: Better Angels
Chapter 10: On Angels' Wings
Also by Steven Pinker
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