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Lerner , a professor at George Mason University School of Law, in an appreciative but ultimately negative review in the Claremont Review of Books does not dismiss the claim of declining violence, writing, "let's grant that the 65 years since World War II really are among the most peaceful in human history, judged by the percentage of the globe wracked by violence and the percentage of the population dying by human hand," but disagrees with Pinker's explanations and concludes that "Pinker depicts a world in which human rights are unanchored by a sense of the sacredness and dignity of human life, but where peace and harmony nonetheless emerge.
It is a future—mostly relieved of discord, and freed from an oppressive God—that some would regard as heaven on earth.
He is not the first and certainly not the last to entertain hopes disappointed so resolutely by the history of actual human beings. Professor emeritus of finance and media analyst Edward S. Herman of the University of Pennsylvania, together with independent journalist David Peterson, wrote detailed negative reviews of the book for the International Socialist Review  and for The Public Intellectuals Project, concluding it "is a terrible book, both as a technical work of scholarship and as a moral tract and guide.
But it is extremely well-attuned to the demands of U. Two critical reviews have been related to postmodern approaches. An explicitly postmodern critique—or more precisely, one based on perspectivism —is made at CTheory by Ben Laws, who argues that "if we take a 'perspectivist' stance in relation to matters of truth would it not be possible to argue the direct inverse of Pinker's historical narrative of violence?
Have we in fact become even more violent over time? Each interpretation could invest a certain stake in 'truth' as something fixed and valid—and yet, each view could be considered misguided. Ditto for underpaying workers, undermining cultural traditions, polluting the ecosystem, and other practices that moralists want to stigmatize by metaphorically extending the term violence to them. It's not that these aren't bad things, but you can't write a coherent book on the topic of 'bad things.
Just as a book on cancer needn't have a chapter on metaphorical cancer, a coherent book on violence can't lump together genocide with catty remarks as if they were a single phenomenon. John Arquilla of the Naval Postgraduate School criticized the book in Foreign Policy for using statistics that he said did not accurately represent the threats of civilians dying in war:. The problem with the conclusions reached in these studies is their reliance on "battle death" statistics.
The pattern of the past century—one recurring in history—is that the deaths of noncombatants due to war has risen, steadily and very dramatically. In World War I, perhaps only 10 percent of the 10 million-plus who died were civilians. The number of noncombatant deaths jumped to as much as 50 percent of the 50 million-plus lives lost in World War II, and the sad toll has kept on rising ever since". Stephen Corry , director of the charity Survival International , criticized the book from the perspective of indigenous people 's rights.
He asserts that Pinker's book "promotes a fictitious, colonialist image of a backward 'Brutal Savage', which pushes the debate on tribal peoples' rights back over a century and [which] is still used to justify their destruction.
Anthropologist Rahul Oka has suggested that the apparent reduction in violence is just a scaling issue. Wars can be expected to kill larger percentages of smaller populations. As the population grows, fewer warriors are needed, proportionally. Sinisa Malesevic has argued that Pinker and other similar theorists, such as Azar Gat , articulate a false vision of human beings as being genetically predisposed to violence, while they focus on the last forty to fifty years.
Statistician and philosophical essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb used the term "Pinker Problem" to describe errors in sampling under conditions of uncertainty after corresponding with Pinker regarding the theory of great moderation.
Science is not about making claims about a sample, but using a sample to make general claims and discuss properties that apply outside the sample.
They propose an alternative methodology to look at violence in particular, and other aspects of quantitative historiography in general in a way compatible with statistical inference, which needs to accommodate the fat-tailedness of the data and the unreliability of the reports of conflicts.
In March , the academic journal Historical Reflections published the first issue of their 44th volume entirely devoted to responding to Pinker's book in light of its significant influence on the wider culture, such as its appraisal by Bill Gates. The issue contains essays by twelve historians on Pinker's thesis, and the editors of the issue Mark S. The problems that come up time and again are: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Why Violence Has Declined Cover of the first edition.
Dewey Decimal. Why Violence Has Declined".
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The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 16 November Why Violence Has Declined. New York: New York Times. Retrieved March 17, The History of Manners , Oxford: Blackwell, , and The Civilizing Process , Vol. State Formation and Civilization , Oxford: Blackwell, Harvard University Institute of Politics. The Gates Notes.
Archived from the original on January 22, Retrieved March 18, The Guardian. Retrieved Enlightenment Now: Library Journal, 15 , The National Interest Nov-Dec The American Scholar Autumn The Better Angels of Our Nature".
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Big Think. The Wilson Quarterly Autumn Los Angeles Review of Books. October 1, Wall Street Journal. The Telegraph. Financial Times.
Steven Pinker's new book reveals an ever more peaceable species: The Huffington Post. The Spectator. The Independent. Exaggerating Prehistoric War Mortality.
Fry, D. War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views. Oxford University Press. Scientific American. First Things January Retrieved July 8, Claremont Review of Books Spring International Socialist Review. Retrieved March 19, Steven Pinker's History of Violence in Decline". The New Yorker. Foreign Policy. Poirot or Clouseau?: Why Steven Pinker, like Jared Diamond, is wrong". Open Democracy. Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications.
November 21, The Royal Society. September 25, University of Edinburgh. The Daily Telegraph. The decline in violence, he argues, is enormous in magnitude, visible on both long and short time scales, and found in many domains, including military conflict, homicide, genocide, torture, criminal justice, and treatment of children, homosexuals, animals and racial and ethnic minorities.
He stresses that "The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. He specifically rejects the view that humans are necessarily violent, and thus have to undergo radical change in order to become more peaceable. However, Pinker also rejects what he regards as the simplistic nature versus nurture argument, which would imply that the radical change must therefore have come purely from external "nurture" sources.
Instead, he argues: "The way to explain the decline of violence is to identify the changes in our cultural and material milieu that have given our peaceable motives the upper hand. Chapter 8 discusses five "inner demons" - psychological systems that can lead to violence.
Chapter 9 examines four "better angels" or motives that can incline people away from violence. The last chapter examines the five historical forces listed above that have led to declines in violence.
Six trends of declining violence Chapters 2 through 7 [ edit ] The Pacification Process: Pinker describes this as the transition from "the anarchy of hunting, gathering, and horticultural societies He says this revolution "unfolded on the [shorter] scale of centuries and took off around the time of the Age of Reason and the European Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries. These spin-offs from the concept of human rights—civil rights, women's rights, children's rights, gay rights, and animal rights—were asserted in a cascade of movements from the late s to the present day.
Nothing could be further from contemporary scientific understanding of the psychology of violence. It is the output of several psychological systems that differ in their environmental triggers, their internal logic, their neurological basis, and their social distribution. Influences[ edit ] Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the book Pinker uses a range of sources from different fields.
Particular attention is paid to philosopher Thomas Hobbes who Pinker argues has been undervalued. Pinker's use of "un-orthodox" thinkers follows directly from his observation that the data on violence contradict our current expectations.
In an earlier work Pinker characterized the general misunderstanding concerning Hobbes: Hobbes is commonly interpreted as proposing that man in a state of nature was saddled with an irrational impulse for hatred and destruction.
In fact his analysis is more subtle, and perhaps even more tragic for he showed how the dynamics of violence fall out of interactions among rational and self-interested agents. The extent of Elias' influence on Pinker can be adduced from the title of Chapter 3, which is taken from the title of Elias' seminal The Civilizing Process.
Table of contents
They co-wrote a New York Times op-ed article titled 'War Really Is Going Out of Style' that summarizes many of their shared views,  and appeared together at Harvard's Institute of Politics to answer questions from academics and students concerning their similar thesis.
That's a contribution, not just to historical scholarship, but to the world. Singer concludes: "[It] is a supremely important book. To have command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement.
Pinker convincingly demonstrates that there has been a dramatic decline in violence, and he is persuasive about the causes of that decline. The trends are not subtle — many of the changes involve an order of magnitude or more.
Even when his explanations do not fully convince, they are serious and well-grounded. But Pinker shows that for most people in most ways it has become much less dangerous.
I don't know if he's right, but I do think this book is a winner. Wilson , in the Wall Street Journal , called the book "a masterly effort to explain what Mr.
Pinker regards as one of the biggest changes in human history: We kill one another less frequently than before. But to give this project its greatest possible effect, he has one more book to write: a briefer account that ties together an argument now presented in pages and that avoids the few topics about which Mr.
Pinker has not done careful research. Bush 'infamously' supported torture; John Kerry was right to think of terrorism as a 'nuisance"; 'Palestinian activist groups' have disavowed violence and now work at building a 'competent government.
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Wilson in the Wall Street Journal comes to mind , virtually everyone else either raves about the book or expresses something close to ad hominem contempt and loathing At the heart of the disagreement are competing conceptions of research and scholarship, perhaps epistemology itself.
How are we to study violence and to assess whether it has been increasing or decreasing?Pinker convincingly demonstrates that there has been a dramatic decline in violence, and he is persuasive about the causes of that decline. Scientific American. The issue contains essays by twelve historians on Pinker's thesis, and the editors of the issue Mark S.
Palmyrah The name is Pinker, Ma'am. An explicitly postmodern critique—or more precisely, one based on perspectivism —is made at CTheory by Ben Laws, who argues that "if we take a 'perspectivist' stance in relation to matters of truth would it not be possible to argue the direct inverse of Pinker's historical narrative of violence?
Why Violence Has Declined. Clive Cookson, reviewing it in the Financial Times , called it "a marvelous synthesis of science, history and storytelling, demonstrating how fortunate the vast majority of us are today to experience serious violence only through the mass media.