7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A good read,
This review is from: The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes (Hardcover)
Steven Pinker has combined figures from widely different sources to show that humanity has been getting consistently, and massively, less violent. This is from prehistory right through to today and it applies to large areas of the planet, including Europe and the US.
By "less violent", he means that we are less likely to die at the hands of our fellow men, through war or murder etc. He does not necessarily mean that we are getting any "kinder" or "nicer" or less aggressive.
And, yes, the decrease in violence during the 20th century did include both world wars.
He speculates on the causes of some of the steeper declines in violence, such as The Enlightenment in 18th Century Europe.
I did not find it a particularly political book. But the findings are nonetheless politically charged. It is like Galileo reporting that Jupiter had moons in 1610. Although this was a scientific observation, Galileo well knew the political repercussions.
It is hard to get a feel for the accuracy of the figures. And, as another reviewer has observed, it is impossible to gauge how selective they are. So I am not convinced that the picture he paints is particularly correct.
But that is not really the point. The important point is that we should be open to such a finding, if it survives further scrutiny. A bit like if Galileo had reported that Jupiter *might* have moons.
Even if, like me, you take the findings with a pinch of salt, the ideas bubbling up everywhere, and the many diverting side-topics, make it a good read.