I’ve written an in-depth review of Steven Pinker’s new book on the decline of violence for the latest Wilson Quarterly
I thought getting a free copy and working on a review would be great fun but was rather taken aback when the 848 page book landed on my doorstep. I shouldn’t have been because there isn’t a wasted page.
I go into the details of some of Pinker’s key arguments in the book, which you can read in more detail in the review, but as you can see from this part, the book is definitely worth reading.
Despite my concerns about how Pinker portrays individual psychology and neuroscience, The Better Angels of Our Nature is so comprehensive that these faults represent only a fraction of the book. Taken as a whole, it is powerful, mind changing, and important. Pinker does not shy away from the gritty detail and is not to be taken lightly—quite literally in fact, as at more than 800 pages his book could easily be used as a weapon if you remained unpersuaded by its arguments. But this avalanche of information serves to demonstrate convincingly and counterintuitively that violence is on the decline.
In many ways, violence is a disease of the emotions. While we should never ignore the victims, it can be managed and curbed so it affects as few people as possible and remains minimally contagious. Many illnesses that once felled multitudes are now largely vanquished through greater knowledge and simple preventive measures; a similar process has made us all less likely to be targets, and perpetrators, of brutality. As Pinker argues, this is an achievement we should take pride in.
You can read the full text of the review by clicking on the link below. Thanks to The Wilson Quarterly for making it available online.
Link to review of Pinker’s new book in The Wilson Quarterly.