Review of The Better Angels of Our Nature

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Steven Pinker – Harvard psychology professor, best-selling author of The Sense of Style and one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today” – presents a dizzying, immense, revelatory re-evaluation of violence globally, now and throughout history. His central thesis, which he defends with research, charts, graphs, surveys of history and psychological theory, is that worldwide violence has declined to – and currently holds at – historically low levels. Thus, this is a time of unprecedented peace thanks to several factors that Pinker explains in knowing detail, plus those better angels of human nature: “empathy, self-control, moral sense” and “reason.”  

To help you understand today’s reduced level of violence Pinker offers an overview of worldwide levels of violence in every era. The last part of his analysis covers the social and psychological motivations that fuel violence and the individual moral – and broad historical – influences that resist it.

About the Author

Steven Pinker is a Harvard College professor and the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His books include The Sense of Style, The Blank Slate, Words and Rules, How the Mind Works and The Language Instinct.


Pinker offers the following lessons and insights:

 1. Six trends delineate the history of human violence.

Six trends or changing frameworks delineate how human violence has decreased over the span of history. The first was the shift from hunter-gatherers to agricultural societies. The second shift away from violence happened during civilization’s last 500 years – from 1500 AD to the present – a time span during which homicides declined precipitously. The third shift happened in Europe during the Age of Reason, when governments first proscribed various kinds of nonstate violence.

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