A competent primer for the 21st century. I'd recommended this to someone just entering the field of -- wtf happened to the world? Otherwise it is most...moreA competent primer for the 21st century. I'd recommended this to someone just entering the field of -- wtf happened to the world? Otherwise it is mostly a rehash of old-ish ideas and mostly anecdotal. There hare some hard numbers but not enough hard data and weak at projecting forward.
Interesting work on culturally selected fears, but dated. This was originally published in 1982 so many of the example make the work seem more than a...moreInteresting work on culturally selected fears, but dated. This was originally published in 1982 so many of the example make the work seem more than a little out of step with current fears (justified or not). Still, the core argument remains valid.
However, I would not recommend this work because of its dated examples and argument.
"Violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species' existence." (Location 128)
Th...more"Violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species' existence." (Location 128)
This is, perhaps, the primary sentiment of this latest work by Prof. Steven Pinker. And for all my reservations with his ideology (progressivism) and his lack of critique surrounding statistical analyses I cannot help but feel this is a brilliant, insightful, and profoundly optimistic book. Optimism is something which has been, intellectually, in short supply for a great many decades. Though this seems odd because between the Long Peace (since the end of the second world war) and the New Peace (the end of the cold war) this is something we should all be feeling about our collective future. However, pessimism seems to be the general sentiment: from Climate Change to the geopolitics of China and India.
Back to The Better Angels of Our Nature. The book is not without its faults
-An out of control Progressivist ideology -Feminization theories which are deeply suspicious -Left Wing political agenda...as read by Americans -A mostly uncritical attitude to statistical analyses (some is suggested but mostly as a sop) -The inherent `squishiness' of the Social Sciences -An aggressive atheism which discounts all the positives attributes of Religion in favour of Old Testament blood thirsty hyperbole (and some from the New Testament). Personal note: I'm an atheist. -A rather hostile discounting of conservatives and conservatism (again, American in perspective): see page 662 and following for a sample of this. Note: I read the Kindle Edition on my iPad.
For all of the above weaknesses and others, this is still a timely, important, concise, and articulate peace of optimism...with provisos (Pinker's not mine).
Perhaps some of Prof. Pinker's most interesting observations are why he believes the world remains pessimistic about violence. One of my favourites is why the world, generally, feels violence is getting worse when it is actually declining:
"The decline of violent behaviour has been paralleled by a decline in the attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence, and often the attitudes are in the lead." p. 155
Our tolerance for violence appears to have fallen faster than violence actually has. This, perhaps, could force a greater decline in violence or it could have unforeseen negative consequences. At the moment this remains uncertain...to my way of thinking.
This is a book which deserves several book length reviews and much closer analysis than I have given it here but it is brilliant and articulate while occasionally slipping into arrogance and ideological myopia (see progressivism and atheism amongst others).
I did not give this book a full 5 stars because of the problems I have cited above, but it is a brilliant and important work that is both accessible and comprehensive (if the reader is willing to put in a little time).
There are two other reasons I only gave this book 4 stars and that has to do with the book's formatting. 1) References/Endnotes are not activated 2)The index is not activated either. These are two very serious problems for readers of the e-Editions of this book. Some may feel this is not the place for this criticism but I would, respectfully, disagree because it makes looking up sources, so that I may engage more fully with the text, very very laborious. This is the typical way that publishers handle ebooks...haphazardly at best. Then they over-price them...which only promotes piracy. (less)
And the prose style was lifeless. With literary fiction style and character drive the work and this possessed nei...morePretty typical holocaust literature.
And the prose style was lifeless. With literary fiction style and character drive the work and this possessed neither compelling characters nor an interesting use of language.
If Ms. Anglada is indicative of the best Europe has to offer then I weep for the peninsula.
It wasn't bad, and if this is your introduction to holocaust literature you may even call it good. But within the space of holocaust literature it isn't either original or compelling...the best which could be said of this is that it is typical/average. And, really, is there any greater condemnation of literary fiction.(less)