A primer for Steven Pinker’s ‘Better Angels of our Nature’
February 8, 2012
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This is for the March book club of the BC Humanists, and is simply a collection of links to things related to Steven Pinker’s excellent book ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’.
First of all, here is a summary of all salient arguments and the most original and interesting data Pinker adduces to support his conclusions that we are spectacularly less violent now than we ever have been before, and that this decrease in violence is due to the growth of the state, the expansion of market networks, and the spread of Enlightenment values. If you need a refresher for this long book (or if you didn’t read it but still want to come to the club), this is your first stop.
Here is a review of the book from the marvelous Peter Singer, and a follow-up blog post by a NY Times writer, both with some mild but poignant criticisms.
Here are some harsher reviews, including one I think is a bit besides the point with its critique, and a brief jab at Pinker’s methodology for his statistical analyses.
Here is an interview of Pinker by Sam Harris – whom I find endlessly sophomoric and irritating, but who is perfectly fine here, largely due to restricting his questions to short prompts that allow in none of his personal character. Another interview of Pinker, a bit more speculative.
For people interested in reading a bit more on the relationship between institutions of power in society, such as the state, and violence, you could check out one or two of my previous blogposts on the subject, the former being very on-topic and the latter being more about theories explaining why people carry out political violence..