The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

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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.

Understanding Human Nature with Steven Pinker - Conversations with History

A two-time Pulitzer finalist and the winner of many prizes for his research, teaching, and books, he has been named one of Time 's most influential people in the world today and Foreign Policy 's Global Thinkers. He lives in Cambridge. Average customer rating 4.

A tour de force antidote for the "if it bleeds it leads" drum beat generated by the media. Necessarily graphic in descriptions of historical violence, so be forewarned. Such belief systems justify violence by a toxic means - ends analysis: If a Messianic Age will be infinitely good, then any amount of violence may be perpetrated to attain it, and those who oppose it are infinitely evil and deserving of arbitrarily harsh punishment.

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What is the relation between what you consider a general decline in violence and the increased attention and protection of children, ethnic minorities, women, and homosexuals in some societies? The rights revolutions that have protected these vulnerable groups against lynching, rape, domestic violence, gay-bashing, physical and sexual abuse, harsh physical punishments and cruel practices have been driven, I believe, by the same repugnance to violence, driven by the same humanitarian concerns. In terms of psychology, is there an innate drive towards violence and aggression within us?

Or conversely, an innate drive to be "good"?


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Neither and both. Humans harbour a number of distinct motives that can result in violence: including greed, vengeance, dominance, sadism and destructive ideologies.

They also harbour a number of distinct motives that can inhibit violence - what [US president Abraham] Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature": including self-control, empathy, reason and a sense of fairness. In general, societies that engage in trade and are open to the world's economy have lower rates of interstate war, civil war and genocide. This is consistent with the Enlightenment theory of "gentle commerce" and the evolutionary theory of "reciprocal altruism" - it's better for both sides if one tries to get ahead by trading things rather than by stealing them.

Why Violence Has Declined

How would our collective psychology be affected if we knew that we are living in a relatively peaceful era of human history? We could try to identify the causes that brought violence down - including commerce, democracy, cosmopolitanism, education, good government, sound institutions and freedom of speech - and try to implement them widely and robustly.

We dialled more than 35, random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan. Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade. Residents of long-neglected northwestern tribal belt say incorporation into Pakistan has left them in a vacuum.

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ISBN 13: 9780670022953

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Review of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined :: Middle East Quarterly

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