Michael Harry's Reviews > The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
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May 16, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read from May 09 to 16, 2012

While I agree with the authors general premise and I feel he argued his case well I feel he went on too long. This book is far bigger than it needs to be. The general point was made earlier on.

The problems is that the book doesn't know whether it wants to be a reference text on the subject, to dip in and out of or a narrative pop stats book. The tone is conversational and narrative but broken up by digressions into stats and explanations of those stats which loses the flow of what you were reading.

Many critics won't be able to get past our deep ingrained belief that the past was a great paradise and everything is regressing to a worse state and so on. But the idea that we've become more empathic and it's changed the way we treat each other is convincingly worked here. What goes against the author is his tendency towards the starry eyed anecdote or observations which can undermine the actual sources which I find well done.

I personally feel he makes too much of the "long peace", I don't feel it's as secure and that he downplays ongoing violence in other parts of the world. Also the intransigence of the violence in others.

There are some gems and some great points made though, this carried my thoughts on this book to be overall positive. I especially liked the rebuttal of the freakonomics argument for the reduction in 90s crime (abortion). It was trite and offensive and this author broke down why it also made little sense and had too many flawed assumptions. But then the author posits his own ideas and tends towards wishy washy speculation which sort of sums up the latter parts of the book.

Overall this book is worth a read but could use some revisions and editing.
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