Courtesy Reuters

War No More

Why the World Has Become More Peaceful

Purchase Review

As Steven Pinker observes, we recall the twentieth century as an age of unparalleled violence, and we characterize our own epoch as one of terror. But what if our historical moment is in fact defined not by mass killing but by the greatest levels of peace and safety ever attained by human­kind? By way of this provocative hypothesis, the acclaimed psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist aims to liberate us from the overblown victimhood-by-contiguity of the present moment, maintaining quite credibly that we ought to be grateful for living when we do.

In his vivid descriptions of the distant and recent past, Pinker draws from a wide range of fields beyond his own to chart the decline of violence, which he says "may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history." He argues that prehistory was much more violent than early civilization and that the past few decades have been much less violent than the first half of the twentieth century. He is opposing two common and related presumptions: that the time before civilization was a golden age and that the present moment is one of unique danger. Pinker rejects the idea that violence is "hydraulic," a pressure within individuals and societies that at some point must burst through. He prefers to see violence as "strategic," a choice that makes sense within certain historical circumstances. Thus, he describes two fundamental transitions: from the anarchy of hunting and gathering societies to the controlled ­violence of early states and

Log in or register for free to continue reading.

Registered users get access to one free article every month. Subscribers get access to the entire archive.

In This Review

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
Steven Pinker
Viking Adult, 2011
832 pp. $40.00

Browse Related Articles on {{}}

{{ | number}} Articles Found

  • {{bucket.key_as_string}}