The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Front Cover
Viking, 2011 - Nonviolence - 802 pages

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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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AshRyan - LibraryThing

Historical perspective and statistical analysis shed new light on trends in violence Follow any major news media outlet (and most of the minor ones) and it's easy to get the impression that the world ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - eglinton - LibraryThing

Society is not broken, and the world is less scarred by violence than at any time in history. It's not a jungle out there. In fact, we're all getting nicer and nicer, except perhaps in a few marginal ... Read full review

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About the author (2011)

Steven Arthur Pinker was born on September 18, 1954 in Canada. He is an experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, and author. He is a psychology professor at Harvard University. He is the author of several non-fiction books including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, The Stuff of Thought, and The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. His research in cognitive psychology has won the Early Career Award in 1984 and Boyd McCandless Award in 1986 from the American Psychological Association, the Troland Research Award in 1993 from the National Academy of Sciences, the Henry Dale Prize in 2004 from the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and the George Miller Prize in 2010 from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. He was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1998 and in 2003. In 2006, he received the American Humanist Association's Humanist of the Year award for his contributions to public understanding of human evolution.

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