knig'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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Aug 20, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012

I have a peripheral awareness that Pinker awakens red penitus in a goodly proportion of his stalwart readers: but I don’t know why. I shan’t delve into this before I write up ‘better angels’: don’t want to be distracted by ‘noise’.

800 pages of socio-economic postulating: always an inexact science, is going to rub someone the wrong way hither or thither. We see what we want to see, and 800 pages of the ‘humanities’ is like waving a red flag to a bull: plenty of scope to flare up, statistically speaking, and isn’t that just what we love to do best: exploit the ‘Moralizing Gap’ to justify our own world view:we’re brushed up dammit: well, OK, we may not be able to prove a point statistically, mathematically, economically, biologically or physically, but give me the humanities, I say: and see if I know my oochie from my achie.

The subject centre stage here is violence, (mainly in the westen hemisphere, where data is more readily available)and the overarching conclusion is that it has decreased over time: in terms of war, rape, homicide and any other conceivable physical violation against the person.

No one, as far as I am aware, has disagreed with this overall premise, although certain definitions of violence are under debate : e.g. the high prevaleence of infanticide has been supplanted with high levels of abortion, so in this particular area Pinker’s hypothesis does not hold up: but this is and other instances are outliers in the more general scenario of violence reduction.

Pinker’s starting premise is the biological impulse, the Darwinian hegemony for survival . This type of thinking will either resonate or repel. But it is an important point because if you’re going to go down the route of biological justification, then its inadmissible to switch and bait halfway through as Pinker does. And he does so by positing the issue of excessive violence in terms of biological necessity, but resolves its decrease through ambiguous channels such as self control, empathy, reverse morality and, incongruously, and ultimately, the Flynn effect.

Hence the incompatibility? How can something which starts off as nature be dampened by nurture? Huh? Huh?

On the surface, all of the theories Pinker posits withstands microscopic examination: the Civilizing Process (e.g. the contract between man and state) does indeed explain the decline in violence: prior to Henry II introducing the state vs Jane Doe as opposed to Joe Bloggs vs Jane Doe, violence was the only way out: you smacked your feudal neighbours about, or you lost out. The aristocracy were just as likely as the hoi polloi to ‘engage’ in a good brawl. After the change in law, it wasn’t so beneficial. The upper and middle classes modified their behaviour. The lower classes persisted (and persist), because they have never fully bought into the state-citizen contract (and to be fair, neither has the state, on their behalf). Other influencing factors intervene: commerce, the integration of minorities in spheres of influence which engender the ‘rights revolution’, the pacifying influence of women, the clear demarcation of national borders, the influx of democracy, the redefinition of moral values.

And you know what: its all true. All of it. All of these trends decreased violence. And not one person can nary say it didn’t. But how exactly:well, Pinker’s final analysis is: mainly, Reason. Now, I’ve cut and pasted this next section from Peter Singer in the New York Times book review, because he rightly summarises Pinker’s position and I am too lazy to. I’m saving my fire for the constructive anlaysis after:

‘Pinker’s claim that reason is an important factor in the trends he has described relies in part on the “Flynn effect” — the remarkable finding by the philosopher James Flynn that ever since I.Q. tests were first administered, the scores achieved by those taking the test have been rising. The average I.Q. is, by definition, 100; but to achieve that result, raw test scores have to be standardized. If the average teenager today could go back in time and take an I.Q. test from 1910, he or she would have an I.Q. of 130, which would be better than 98 percent of those taking the test then. Nor is it easy to attribute this rise to improved education, because the aspects of the tests on which scores have risen most do not require a good vocabulary or even mathematical ability, but instead test powers of abstract reasoning. ......

Pinker argues that enhanced powers of reasoning give us the ability to detach ourselves from our immediate experience and from our personal or parochial perspective, and frame our ideas in more abstract, universal terms. This in turn leads to better moral commitments, including avoiding violence. It is just this kind of reasoning ability that has improved during the 20th century. He therefore suggests that the 20th century has seen a “moral Flynn effect, in which an accelerating escalator of reason carried us away from impulses that lead to violence” and that this lies behind the long peace, the new peace, and the rights revolution. Among the wide range of evidence he produces in support of that argument is the tidbit that since 1946, there has been a negative correlation between an American president’s I.Q. and the number of battle deaths in wars involving the United States. ‘

Here is where I wade in now: First of all, surely the Flynn effect is fallacious? There has been much debate about the accuracy of IQ tests in general, and how they are loaded with prescribed sense-data which automatically ‘disqualifies’ intelligent people who have not been immersed in the culture of this sense data. Second, the mode in which abstract reasoning is included in standardised tests is very easily a ‘learnable’ rather than an ‘applicable’ commodity, whose sequences have been incorporated in thousands of ephemeral ways in the educational system to begin with, and routinely tested over time. To use the Flynn effect as some overarching proof that we are ‘smarter’ than our predecessors is a travesty. But no more so than Pinker’s next theory, that ‘Reason’ has finally got the upper hand and carried us away ‘from impulse led violence’. This must be intuitively wrong, even to a philosophical novice. How can Reason deal with a biological impulse? In fact, when has Reason ever successfully ‘eliminated’ a biological impulse? Need I remind Pinker about the painful, unnecessary and degrading experiments in say trying to ‘reason with homosexuals’ that they have other choices? Conversely, I’m pretty certain no amount of reasoning will sway my biological sexual impulses either. Obviously countless other examples pertain. Pinker!!!
And yet violence has gone down. How to explain this, then? Given I don’t buy Pinker’s theory, I’m going to have to have a go at this myself. Why not?

First, Pinker concedes the impulse to violence is biologically driven. Then, buried deep within the 800 page text is a study by Preston and de Waal in 2002 ‘aversiveness of conspecifics in pain’, which basically translates into primates (and humans) having a natural inbred revulsion to inflicting violence on other primates/humans (backed up by Stanley Milgram’s shock experiment and the Trolley Problem). On a separate note, there is also the well known concept of ‘crowd mechanics’: or how we all fall into rank when the mob rules. My personal theory here is that, based on the studies above, it is possibility that violence was ‘overexaggerated’ in early history to begin with, due to lack of behaviour limiting controls. Perhaps in the wild these might be say greater geographical distances between competing primate groups. In human history, perhaps it was the state contract which modified an unnaturally rampant exhibition of violence between competitors in close proximity.(picture two pitbulls in a ring: excessiveness, eh?) Effectively then, an ‘overly violent’ population was stabilised to its natural levels. But this is not the whole story. ‘Better Angels’ shows we have gone one further, and overt violence is now perhaps below what might be considered the natural equilibrium. How did this happen?

Well, it didn’t. The first thing that I must concede if I am to accept that violence is a biologically driven impulse, is that it simply can NOT have been dissipated, and certainly not by Reason. The question then is, where did the violence go? Its not easily seen as a subject-object agreement, so what happened? Its been redirected, I think. We’re not rid of it, we’re simply rechanneling in a ‘non statistical’ way. Its not with a little trepidation I’m going to mention the xBox and film now. I realise I might be relegated to cuckoo territory (my only consolation is I’ll be sharing it with Pinker though!).

In the first half of the last century we had two world wars to keep us busy (and I think anybody would agree a combined total of over 40 million casualties is enough to keep anyone’s bloodthirsty instinct at bay), in the 60s there was the Vietnam war and the most intense cold war stand off ever (Bay of Pigs), and from the eighties onwards, we have: well, video games. The xBox (and read here all its technical predecessors and contemporaries) cuts across class, race, age divide and unite men (yes, men) in an indiscriminate guts and glory campaign. Usage is phenomenal., and all inclusive. If you’re old enough to hold the controller: you’re in. Its the new passage of initiation: four year olds sat next to fourteen year olds next to forty year olds: killing, massacring, rampaging, destroying and eviscerating (apparently the only taboo is raping: there is no button for it. Says Pinker). If its not the xBox its organised sport in a way well, in a way sport hasn’t been organised ever before. Not for nothing do we have the football hooligans and the mandatory Saturday matches. And finally. Film. This is something I’ve been ‘doing’ for the last month and a half: I’ve traversed the chronological gamut of film, and I find that the level of violence in film ‘now’ is phenomenal compared to anything found before the 1960s, with ever escalating etudes since. Its gotten so bad, that at the moment we are in a new era of image making: and I call it gender segregation. The majority of current offerings seem to run across gender biased lines: mindless violent action for the men, where the directors don’t even pretend to be aiming for all round inclusivity, tempered with a backlash for women: just as silly a regression in stereotypical ‘romcom’ where no allowances are made for the non chicklit minded. Cinema is divided, in a way it never was prior to the 1960s onwards. Which serves no one well. But apropos of violence: this is where its all happening. Behind the scenes, where the victims are not ‘real’ people, and the statistics don’t register. Which means, of course, that the problem of violence hasn’t gone away.

It will resurface in all its glory. Just give it the right time and place.

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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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message 1: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Nice to see you back! I have this one on the short list. Will probably come and comment in more detail once i've read it myself. :)

knig Thanks, but I'm not back yet. Just passing through, back late sept at this rate.

message 3: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller :( Oh no.. well, i hope you enjoy whatever is taking you away from us.

I'm also taking a short break actually... but not a complete break. :)

message 4: by Antonomasia (last edited Aug 22, 2012 05:34PM) (new) - added it

Antonomasia I've been trying to formulate a good comment on this for a bit; not sure I'm going to get there so may as well type anyway... Around the time this was first published, I read some excerpts that were in the newspapers.

It is a bit of a Whiggish progress oriented thesis, but Pinker does appear to have a point about state and socially-sanctioned violence in the West. This cannot come from nowhere - it has to have roots in wider society. But as you say the id hasn't disappeared: it shows up on a personal level in the increasingly violent entertainment media you mention. (And for the state, in part shipped out to the Middle East in wars.)

Human group behaviour can never be described uniformly though, so there is likewise the perceived breakdown in law and order especially among teenagers and the most economically deprived strata of society as most visible in the riots last summer. I do wonder what Pinker would have made of those.

I think that economic inequality is behind some of that - compare the UK with some of the most equal societies such as the Nordic countries, for instance, and the crime rate is also lower.

This is a book with a theme somewhat similar to Pinker's Better Angels, which I reviewed last week:
Although that's a deeply ironic comparison when The Blank Slate is also considered.

The question of why collective human behaviour changes is fascinating but seems impossible to answer definitively - it's all theory and interpretation in the end, it seems.

knig Very interesting comment: I've commented on your review re violence against children, and I agree socio economic inequality lies behind the higher rates of violence in the UK. (its also one of Pinker's main tenets). And its true how difficult it is to definitively evaluate the changing nature of human behaviour: this is why a sociological book like this will always have its fans and opponents: depending on one's point of view.

message 6: by Carlo (new) - added it

Carlo I enjoyed your review. Lots of interesting thoughts here.

I haven't read this book but I came across Pinker's thesis through some lecture that I've seen on What I understood from his lecture is that violence is not worth it anymore in today's society. We do have biological urges for violence because it used to pay during our long biological history, but now it just doesn't and is not worth the effort and risk given the more effective and ultimately less violent ways in which we can achieve our aims. I think he relies heavily on the point that there was a huge amount of time available for the instincts of violence to flourish and I think I buy into this. What do you think?

knig what a great site: thanks for the link. Shall be whiling away many a happy minutes there.

Yes, that is what Pinker says: violence is not worth it. And he is right, its not worth it. The problem though, sorry for repeating myself, is that given that violence is a biological impulse acquired over thousands of years as a means of 'survival' and conflict resolution, it can't simply be 'turned' off at the tap just because we've realised its no longer 'needed' one day. You can't just do that with an instinct overnight. so the question for me was how this instinct is expressed nowadays, given the social exclusion policy on violence, and this is where and how I focused on virtual reality 'war games': which, lets face it, would not be so profitable and popular if men didn't feel the need to somehow 'vaporise' someone somewhere. Do you know what xBox and PS3 sales are like? Astronomical. And virtually all the games are 'shootem ups'. so, just my tuppence on it.

message 8: by Carlo (last edited Aug 24, 2012 05:54AM) (new) - added it

Carlo In a book I read this year (The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology) about the much controversial field of Evolutionary Psychology, there was a similar discussion. Robert Wright argues that because our evolutionary history was not constant and we have lived under different social conditions, we have a certain malleability when it comes to our social behaviors. He explains lots of phenomenon (and hot topics) like gender equality, marital fidelity, child rearing...etc. with this approach. It was a very good and balanced book.

However, I acknowledge that I will have to read the book to see what Pinker has to say about this point.

knig You should see what he has to say about postpartum depression: I'd never heard THAT one before. But basically, in as much as infanticide can be viewed as a necessary mechanism for distributing resources between all (exisitng and yet to be born children), then post partum depression is apparently the period when the mother has to 'make a decision' whether to 'keep the child or not'. Whilst at first I was shocked by this, in a macabre way I can see his point: from a survival point of view, getting 'depressed' at the time when a newborn needs sustenance and nurture the most doesn't really make any sense, in a way, unless to back Pinker's point. Anyway, digressing here....I don't have a firm opinion on it, just a shocking moment is all.

message 10: by knig (new) - rated it 4 stars

knig Must have a look at the moral animal, as well.

message 11: by howl of minerva (last edited Dec 15, 2012 08:28AM) (new)

howl of minerva Nice review. I think you have a point about media. I also think you may underestimate the extent to which, from the 80s onwards, when the problem of rebellious organised labour in the West had largely been solved by the massive crackdown on unions etc. by Reagan, Thatcher et al., systematic state-individual violence was merely exported, sub-contracted, out-sourced, off-shored.

In South America, East Asia, Africa etc. massive systematic violence was/is employed in the interest of power and usually with Western support. In places where the state functionally no longer exists (e.g. Congo) we have little knowledge and less interest in the massive violence which is continually taking place, as long as our major corporations can strike deals with local warlords to obtain mining rights for the rare-earth metals we need for our laptops and iPhones...

message 12: by knig (new) - rated it 4 stars

knig Good point. As I haven’t done the research myself, I can only go with what Pinker says on this issue.
He claims that in countries which have adopted a western model of democracy, and equally, in countries where there is absolute autocracy, violence overall has decreased on a comparative basis year on year. Inuitively I can agree with this. Anecdotally too. I just returned from Egypt where I made it a point to speak to a great deal of the locals 9I always try to do that wherever I go). There was a general consensus amongst the younger generation (OK I’m working on a sample size of four, I’ll admit), that crime and violence were pretty much under control under Mubarak. Believe it or not. They are disillusioned that one year after the arab spring, conditions have not improved economically yet crime and violence have increased. The police seem to be boycotting the muslim brotherhood and apparently do absolutely nothing to keep the peace.

This leads me to the next point. Pinker points out that crime and violence worldwide are most prevalent when a country is experiencing a ‘decivilizing’ process. For example say right after decolonialisation when a newly fledged country has lost the vestige of established systems but is yet to form new ones. Or in the case of Egypt, where there is a power change/vacuum. The idea is that things stabilise over time.

The issue of ‘violence export’ is genuine and I’m not sure Pinker gives it due credit, although he does say countries with oil tend to have more conflict/violence than countries with scarce resources. Having said that, one can make a point that once the western powers install a puppet president in their choice of location, violence subsequently decreases as autocracy establishes itself. The question would be how does western sponsored/exported violence measure up in terms of say headcount compared to violence that would ensue without that export. I know this sounds prima faecie unacceptably patronising, but I can’t help thinking about the Congo, which you mentioned. The Congo is indeed a failed state. In fact, its so far gone, theres nary a western corporation ‘mining’ out there (although I think the Chinese are making a pitch) because its so dangerous. In this bookt see below Tim Butcher describes an extremely high level of violence. I won’t go into details, but its pretty horrific, and they’re doing it all on their own. Whilst democracy of course would be best for the Congo, given its not a possibility, a case can be made that any western puppet or autocrat who can take control of the country would make it better off for the citizens there long term than what they have now.

This is not to deny the atrocious behaviour of western powers who manipulate the world to their own ends. But I feel a problem doesn’t always have just one side to it.
Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart

message 13: by howl of minerva (new)

howl of minerva The more power is concentrated in the hands of those running a state, the more it will resemble Weber's definition of the "institution with a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence." I think we should treat that 'legitimate' as heavily ironic. Egypt under Mubarak may have had less, say, burglary or violent mugging. But there was an absence of democratic freedoms, those in power were free to arrest and torture dissidents and journalists etc. etc. Violence takes many forms.

theres nary a western corporation ‘mining’ out there

You would have thought. But that's entirely untrue.

"From 2001 to 2003, the United Nations did a report on the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the Congo. There are a number of American companies. We have Cabot Corporation, for example, out of Boston, Massachusetts, that was named in that report. Cabot — the former CEO of Cabot Corporation is Samuel Bodman, current Secretary of Energy in the Bush administration. We have the OM Group out of Cleveland, Ohio, is another company, American company, named in the report. We also have Freeport-McMoRan, who acquired mining rights from Phelps Dodge out of Phoenix, Arizona, who have been involved in copper exploitation in the Congo. And Global Witness said the copper mines, the Tenke Fungurume mine that Freeport-McMoRan has, represents one of the richest deposits of copper in the world. However, the Congolese government and Congolese people are not benefiting from the contracts that were established and that provided Freeport-McMoRan with those resources.
We have a number of Canadian companies. Almost every Canadian prime minister since Pierre Trudeau has been involved in the mining company in the Congo. We’re talking about Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, all of them profiting from the natural resources of the Congo while the Congolese people suffer. The reports from the Congolese government state that eighty percent of the population live on thirty cents or less a day, while you have billions of dollars going out the back door and into the pockets of mining companies."

I've read Blood River. I thought it was ok and it was great to have some first-hand descriptions of life on the ground but there was little useful analysis. I would recommend King Leopold's Ghost on the colonial times and Jason Stearns' recent book Dancing in the Glory of Monsters on more modern developments.

message 14: by knig (new) - rated it 4 stars

knig The fascinating thing is, you're absolutely right, top to bottom, but this is a brilliant illustration of how truth can be such a slippery concept. Of course Mubarak conforms to the definition of someone creating 'an insititution with a legitimate use of violence'. I would be a fool to disagree. And yes he tortured dissidents. But. In my mind, I have to ask: what were the 'per GDP' in his autocracy compared to say the victims in the congo, currently, and say Afganistan under the Teleban? (just examples). Was Iraq better off under Saddam or witout him? As Aristotle stipulates, everything is relative. Given we don't have the ideal of democracy, whats the next best thing? This now is only quasi Pinker, but I would say a benign dictatorship. The communists spring to mind.

I was not aware of all these companies operating in Congo, but I wager they are not responsible for the violence and lawlessness in the country. The question of how to ensure local communities partake of the profits of their natural resources remains, though. MNCs are notorious (as well as private companies: take India: the steel industry is concentrated in the hands of a few families!) for syphoning off profits and leaving the locals desitute. There is no easy answer to this. If a local government tries to flex its muscle and introduce environmental or employment laws, it loses out to competitors who are not pursuing that agenda. This, in essence, is raw capitalism.

You're the first person I've come across who has read Butcher's account of the Congo. I agree its sparce on 'analysis', but it gives a flavour that tops any dry stats the UN might have. He published in 2008, and describes vast tracts of land left untouched due to tribal conflict. Do you mean these companies you state above have infiltrated the country, or are they fringe operators? Butcher claims the majority of the 'inland' population have never seen a railroad or a car: well, except for the elders, who remember the Belgian colonial rule. Benignly. Which is ironical given how merciless they were, which I wouldn't have known about if I hadn't read this book, also quite interesting:

The Rings of Saturn

message 15: by howl of minerva (new)

howl of minerva Too many interesting points and I would need a quiet pub and several pints to really work through them all.

Was Iraq better off under Saddam
I have Iraqi friends who say the everyday situation in Iraq was better when he was ruling. But then if you're a Kurd or a dissident, you may disagree. It's certainly a complex question.

As Aristotle stipulates, everything is relative.
I think Aristotle would probably be the last person to agree with blanket relativism. Plato and Aristotle ranged themselves very squarely against the Sophists, who were pushing something like relativism.

I would say a benign dictatorship. The communists spring to mind.
I would be inclined to agree with the first part, with the caveat that such a thing has rarely if ever existed at a large scale. For the second part, which communists do you have in mind? The major so-called communist movements of the 20th century were catastrophes.

I wager they are not responsible for the violence and lawlessness in the country (...) are they fringe operators?
Responsibility is a complex question. It's never going to be entirely clean cut with 100% of the responsibility easily applicable to one party. Before we can make statements like "they’re doing it all on their own" we have to appreciate some of the historical realities. To start with, we should understand the extractive socio-economic structure put in place under colonialism (see e.g. Leopold's Ghost). Then we need to appreciate that (as everywhere after colonialism) the aim of the former Colonialist powers was to keep this extractive situation in place, with a local puppet in charge and to stifle any attempt at genuine self-rule. We should know about how and why the CIA and the Colonialist powers arranged the assassination of Patrice Lumumba for example (see Stearns and others). As to whether the extraction of wealth from the Congo is somehow a 'fringe' activity, I think the sums involved suggest otherwise, though of course the area involved is so geographically vast that there are huge tracts where no mining company has ventured.

This, in essence, is raw capitalism.
Quite agree.

The Rings of Saturn
A great book. Sebald is one of my favourite writers.

message 16: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller I'm going to bookmark this conversation. I love this place. :)

message 17: by knig (new) - rated it 4 stars

knig Yes, I see your point re Congo and postcolonial power plays. But when you say western powers ‘stifle attempt at self rule’, I have to ponder. US primary policy is to secure its own interests in a particular country, particularly with regard to natural resources exports and if said country is in a hotspot, then strategic allegiance (eg Israel). I don’t think the US or other western powers care much beyond that: certainly the ‘despot’ is free to rule the country as he chooses in all other areas. As to the natural resources export: frankly, they have to go somewhere: if not the US, then somewhere else. I went to Sri lanka last year: they have rejected the West, but have fallen into the hands of the Chinese big time. Which I only realised since the whole country is littered with posters about how China will build this damn or that highway. So, interested parties will always try to influence, bribe, install puppets, sway foreign policy. The problem is, how its done, because lets face it, everyobody is doing it. After the Arab spring a number of foreign policy articles alluded to the fact that the US has been going about it wrong. Instead of ‘installing’ its own hated despotic ruler, it should in future, try to work with the popular, elected rulers to the same effect. But, even if this were the case, I’m not sure its a recipe for economic success for developing countries: an interested party such as China or the US will not necessarily subscribe to ‘fairtrade’. In this arena, it is amazingly large companies’ corporate governance and consumer awareness which might actually make a tangible difference.
As to the communist regimes: I most certainly would not call most of them catastrophic.

message 18: by howl of minerva (last edited Dec 16, 2012 08:27AM) (new)

howl of minerva Yep, by genuine self-rule I mean using a country's resources to benefit the people of that country, rather than siphoning profits abroad. If it were a simple case of handing over money for a resource, I wouldn't have such a problem with it. But when there are illegal deals whereby foreign corporations gain access to resources in exchange for suitcases of cash in the right place and there are no taxes, regulations etc. and no benefit to the people of the area, I think that's a problem. This is a problem on both sides, obviously there is a lack of rule-of-law and governance which permits such situations to arise. But that means that powerful organisations have a very strong vested interest in ensuring there is no rule-of-law. To take another example, if you look at the actions of Shell in the Niger Delta, it's pretty shocking.

As to the communist regimes: I most certainly would not call most of them catastrophic.
I'm thinking mainly of China under Mao and the USSR under Lenin and Stalin. Are you saying that these regimes were not catastrophic for millions of people living under them? Of course there were material advances, but I think the human cost (e.g. of The Great Leap Forward, Stalin's Collectivisation, Holodomor, Purges etc.) was catastrophic, tragic and unnecessary. I think this is widely accepted and won't present any further arguments for it.

message 19: by knig (new) - rated it 4 stars

knig Everyone loves to quote China and Russia, the great horror stories of communism. But its a bit like saying Burkina Faso is a capitalist country. It is failing. Therefore capitalism is failing. Which it isn't. And I know communism technically folded, but I'm not sure it failed. Look, I can make a pretty good case for Romania. Even Serbia. You know what, I actually think a limited period of communism might even be benficial for Burkina Faso.

message 20: by knig (new) - rated it 4 stars

knig I have to look at the niger delta though: not sure what shell is up to there.

message 21: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Knig, you might be interested in a book about the violence during the Partition of India, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India (this is a collection of oral testimony rather than offering any general theory).

message 22: by knig (new) - rated it 4 stars

knig Miriam, thats sounds like a fascinating book. I like to juxtapose a hard facts and stats read such as Pinker with this 'so called oral' testimony which you mention: because life is a combination of both. I'm getting this book, thanks (I see you rated it highly).

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