2012-04-01

Has Violence Been Vanquished — Steven Pinker

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by Neil Godfrey

A thought-provoking essay, Has Violence Been Vanquished, by Steven Pinker, adapted from his new book, can be read at the ABC’s Religion and Ethics website. The same page contains links to some reviews of this book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

I am not as confident as he is that democracies per se are responsible for a reduction of violence. John Keane’s book, Democracy and Violence, has left me wondering if popular correlations are more illusory than real. Further, wonder if the deaths from state sanctions, sanctions against other states and recriminations by states against portions of their subject populations, count as violent deaths. Technically they might be attributed strictly to starvation, disease, natural causes despite the state violence that enforces these conditions.

Gwynne Dyer’s War: The Lethal Custom has likewise argued that the ratio of deaths from war has declined significantly over recent generations.

Don’t know. It’s a reassuring thought I suppose for those of us relaxing with a beer in front of TV behind locked doors. But then again I know we are lucky to be able to travel so widely and live so much longer without the same fears and insecurities that haunted past generations.

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