The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

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Penguin, Oct 4, 2011 - Psychology - 832 pages
4 Reviews
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.

 

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I can't recommend this book highly enough, it has been hugely informative, provocative, shocking, amusing, and inspiring. There are minor elements I might question but Steven Pinker has read so much, analysed so much, and put it all together in a fascinating and deeply human history of the World. An intellectual treat for anyone. 

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An incredibly well laid out discussion/argument. Pinker manages to provide information contrary to popular belief in a non-defensive, non-offensive and non-apologetic way. I don't recall ever reading a book or paper that put forth its argument as persuasively, yet passively, as The Better Angels of Our Nature.
I have already recommended this book to over a dozen people. All of them that have started it have enjoyed it immensely so far. I will definitely be reading more of Pinker's books in the future.
 

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Contents

Praise for Steven Pinkers THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE
A FOREIGN COUNTRY
Chapter3 THE CIVILIZING PROCESS
Chapter4 THE HUMANITARIAN REVOLUTION
Chapter5 THE LONGPEACE Chapter6 THE NEW PEACE
Chapter8 INNER DEMONS
Chapter9 BETTER ANGELS
Chapter10 ON ANGELS WINGS
NOTES
REFERENCES
INDEX
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

Steven Pinker is one of the world's leading authorities on language and the mind. His popular and highly praised books include Words and Rules, How the Mind Works, and The Language Instinct. The recipient of several major awards for his teaching and scientific research, Pinker is Peter de Florez professor of psychology in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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