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The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined [Format Kindle]

Steven Pinker
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (4 commentaires client)

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

Brilliant, mind-altering...Everyone should read this astonishing book (David Runciman Guardian)

A supremely important book. To have command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement. Pinker convincingly demonstrates that there has been a dramatic decline in violence, and he is persuasive about the causes of that decline (Peter Singer New York Times)

[A] sweeping new review of the history of human violence...[Pinker has] the kind of academic superbrain that can translate otherwise impenetrable statistics into a meaningful narrative of human behaviour...impeccable scholarship (Tony Allen-Mills Sunday Times)

Written in Pinker's distinctively entertaining and clear personal style...a marvellous synthesis of science, history and storytelling (Clive Cookson Financial Times)

A salutary reality-check...Better Angels is itself a great liberal landmark (Marek Kohn Independent)

Pinker's scholarhsip is astounding...flawless...masterful (Joanna Bourke The Times)

Selected by the New York Times as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2011 (New York Times)

Présentation de l'éditeur

A provocative history of violence—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Stuff of Thought and The Blank Slate

Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species' existence. In his gripping and controversial new work, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history. Exploding myths about humankind's inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious book continues Pinker's exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 6183 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 832 pages
  • Editeur : Penguin Books; Édition : Reprint (4 octobre 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B0052REUW0
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (4 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°128.512 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires en ligne

4.0 étoiles sur 5
4.0 étoiles sur 5
Commentaires client les plus utiles
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
This is not a perfect book, but it is unique, and if you skim the first 400 or so pages, the last 300 are a pretty good attempt to apply what's known about behavior to social changes in violence and manners over time. The basic topic is: how does our genetics control and limit social change? Surprisingly he fails to give in any clear way the explanation for this in terms of inclusive fitness which is entailed by neodarwinism Mostly the criticisms given by others (I read them all) are nit-picking and irrelevant and, as Pinker has said, he could not write a coherent book about "bad things", nor could he give every possible reference and point of view, but he should have said at least something about the other ways of abusing and exploiting people and the planet since these are now so much more severe as to render other forms of violence irrelevant.

Extending the concept of violence will provide a very different perspective on what is happening in the world right now and how things are likely to go in the next few hundred years. One might start by noting that the decrease in physical violence over history has been matched (and made possible) by the constantly increasing merciless rape of the planet (i.e., by people's destruction of their own descendants future). Pinker (like most people most of the time) is often distracted by the superficialities of culture when its biology that matters.

This is the classic nature/nurture issue and nature trumps nurture --infinitely. What really matters is the violence done to the earth by the relentless increase in population and resource destruction (due to medicine and technology) About 200,000 more people a day (another Los Angeles every three weeks), the 12 tons or so of topsoil going into the sea/person/year etc.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Thumbs up again for Steven Pinker 28 septembre 2014
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This book is not only about a violence, but the way in which we evaluate erroneously the world today based on journalistic information. The book takes a painstaking approach to statistically and rationally demonstrating the lowering of violence as human progress eliminates much of the myth and belief that lie at the origin of our excesses.

This is an extremely funny book (you wouldn't think so by the title), but Steven Pinker is as sharp as always in his analyses and perspectives. I just love reading him and his insights which I find full of good sense and power. For me, Pinker is truly one of the great academics in the US right now. I only hope that the translation into foreign languages allows to communicate all of the American cultural references which are part of the true wealth of the book. Bravo to Steven Pinker - a monument of insightful writing and meaningful academic, cross disciplinary research.
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13 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
This is not a full review but only an account of the weaknesses and errors a reader slightly educated in history or anthropology is likely to find.

Having read all previous Pinker's books, I think this is the worst. Digressing from what is his main area of expertise, he comes to make a cornucopia of mistakes and inaccuracies that should be duly pointed out. Unfortunately, these are quite a lot so that a review of this kind does not suffice. Anyway, here is a brief summary (I'll go through chapters).

The first and second chapters are about the ancient times, the dangerous past. There is a big lacuna in statistics here. Neither does Pinker uses comprehensive sources regarding hunter-gatherers societies (the figures he shows concerns only few societies), nor can we ever know about the past. As we find a great variability in terms of violence and social change in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, we cannot think that 'primitive' societies remained the same for millennia; so we cannot take the Yanomamo as our living ancestors. Indeed the warlike Yanomamo the only non-state society Pinker writes about. This was a famous case reported by Chagnon that has been heavily criticised by many academics (in a 500 page book on the subject Brian Ferguson argues that they became increasingly aggressive because of continuous Western intrusions). Actually, Pinker also mentions the !Kung San, writing about how violent they were with the European colonists (but who would be peaceful towards a sanguinary invader?). As anthropologists normally know, the ways and frequency in which violence is carried out in non-state societies varies dramatically cross-culturally.
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0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 excellent 3 septembre 2013
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je suis inconditionnel de Steven Pinker, dans ce livre il demonte une idée reçue : la violence humaine a déclinée au fil des temps.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.3 étoiles sur 5  383 commentaires
531 internautes sur 590 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A tour de force, covering a huge topic quite well 5 octobre 2011
Par Graham H. Seibert - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This is a huge book, but as Pinker says, it is a huge subject. He organizes himself by lists. First, there are six significant trends which have led to a decrease in violence.
1. Our evolution from hunter gatherers into settled civilizations, which he calls the Pacification Process.
2. The consolidation of small kingdoms and duchies into large kingdoms with centralized authority and commerce, which he calls the Civilizing Process.
3. The emergence of Enlightenment philosophy, and it's respect for the individual through what he calls the Humanitarian Revolution.
4. Since World War II, violence has been suppressed, first by the overwhelming force of the two parties in the Cold War, and more recently by the American hegemony. Pinker calls this the Long Peace.
5. The general trend, even apart from the Cold War, of wars to be more infrequent, and less violent, however autocratic and anti-democratic the governments may be. Call this the New Peace.
6. Lastly, the growth of peace and domestic societies, and with it the diminishing level of violence through small things like schoolyard fights, bullying, and picking on gays and minorities. He titles this the Rights Revolution.

Pinker then goes on to examine the traditional explanations of violence, the traditional explanations of human nature which account for violence. There is practical violence, which you might call necessary violence. Then there are dominance, revenge, sadism, and ideologically driven violence. Opposing these are what he calls the better angels of human nature, empathy, self-control, our moral sense, and reason. Many of these characteristics are shared with our primate brethren, the chimpanzees on down, but some of them are uniquely human. With our ability to reason, and the unique human ability to impute motive to conspecifics of our own or other tribes, and our ability to express ourselves verbally, we are better able than any other species to negotiate our way through situations of conflict. A good deal of the decline in violence has to do with the maturation of these processes through the genetic evolution of the human animal, and more recently, through the evolution of our society and the ways in which societies socialize their members.

He concludes with five historical forces, which I find a little bit harder to grasp, but which serve as a vehicle for explanations of a number of interesting phenomena in the recent evolution of society. We have evolved Leviathan societies, in which the individual is pretty well controlled by state force. Not only our police, but our employers, our schools, and every other institution holds violence firmly in check as a matter of its own functioning. Other forces are commerce, which only happens when the partners are on peaceful terms, the evolution of women from mere propagators of the species to intellectual equals and partners in all of our undertakings, the growing information networks which bind us together, a process he calls cosmopolitanism, and lastly the increasing application of reason, which we would probably call the scientific basis, to human affairs, leading to a recognition that violence is in most circumstances not the best way to achieve one's ends.

In his discussion of ideologically driven violence he spends several pages discussing ideologies themselves. Specifically, he describes the groupthink environment in which a group comes to embrace dogmas that most of the individuals within the group would reject, or at least question, if they approached them on their own. The key mechanism is punishment of dissention, the ostracism of people who don't mouth the groupthink. Sounds to me to describe political correctness at Harvard just as much as Communism under Stalin. I am pleased that Pinker had the courage to resist said PC and defend the science behind the observations which got Larry Summers fired as president of Harvard. Calls to mind the "Kinsley gaffe", "A truthful statement told accidentally, usually by a politician."

For a guy with a long history of writing about evolution, he seems to pretty much avoid its implications in this book. In fact, he has more or less morphed from a true scientist to a social scientist/historian. Whereas "The Language Instinct" and "Words and Rules" got into leading edge science, and "The Blank Slate" brought us up to date on the theory of human evolution, this book is pretty much a compilation of other peoples' statistics and observations, weighted with Pinker's opinions.

The question that will go through every reader's mind when reading a book on the subject this vast is "how do you know?" Pinker answers that question in a way that I really admire - statistics. He says that most of us reason from anecdotal evidence. For instance, because the news media play up terror deaths such as those in Fort Hood, they tend to be grossly exaggerated in our conscience. We would tend to equate the danger of death by an act of terror with that of dying from a lightning strike or industrial accident, when the latter are far more probable. Also, because there have been terror acts in the news lately, we would overlook the fact that the number of deaths attributable to terror have fallen off dramatically over the past few decades. Pinker does a good job of educating us by taking on our common sense understandings, showing that they are erroneous, and showing us a statistical methodology by which we can realistically estimate broad societal phenomena such as terror, death by war, murder and so on.

More than in his other books, Pinker reminds us of his Jewish roots, gently chafing Christianity for celebrating the sacrifice of an innocent man, and turning the cross, the instrument of sacrifice, into its holy icon. He also takes the obligatory swipes at George W. Bush for his bloodthirsty wars, conveniently overlooking the neocons like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle who provided the intellectual foundation for the adventure. He also conveniently over looks the fact that President Obama, despite his vehement campaign rhetoric to the contrary, has continued the wars, presumably also with strong backing from AIPAC, and that he has likewise been captive to advisors such as Larry Summers. His writing is such a thrill to read that I overlook these tropes with an grin. And I appreciate that he is willing to defend the "dead white men" of the Enlightenment and make politically incorrect observations about the different peoples who make up America.

I note, although Pinker does not address them in great detail, some concommitment trends. At the same time violence is decreasing, our religiosity, fertility and our tribalism are likewise decreasing. We are not fighting wars in the interests of religion because large swaths of humanity no longer believe. We are not fighting for lebensraum because we are not having the children that would be needed in order to populate more territory. In other words, at the same time we're becoming less violent, we're losing some of that zest for evolutionary success which led us to become violent in the first place. We can pray along with Doctor Pinker for a world in which there is increasingly less violence, but we need also pray for one in which the drive for human excellence continues to manifest itself.

Afterward: For an excellent review by a professional historian, albeit somewhat more critical than this review, I recommend you google "timothy snyder war no more". Snyder is the author of "Bloodlands," which I also review favorably here on Amazon.
140 internautes sur 158 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Uneven; 3.5 Stars 10 mars 2012
Par R. Albin - Publié sur
This very ambitious and sprawling book is a serious effort to argue for and explain the progressive decline in interpersonal violence in human societies. The book is divided into 2 parts. The first part is an effort to describe a broad sweep of human history from prehistoric societies to the present, arguing for a progressive though intermittant decline in violence in human societies. The second part is an effort to understand the underpinings of the decline in violence in terms of human psychological processes.

Pinker's sequence of the decline in violence is based on synthesis of a large volume of literature generated by archaeologists, ethnologists, historians, sociologists, political scientists, and psychologists. Pre-state societies, while low in absolute population and absolute number of violent acts, had very high per capita levels of violence. The emergence of states resulted in some decline in violence and the gradual strengthening of the state resulted in a progressive decline in interpersonal violence, even as states became more capable of waging war. This is best documented in Europe from the Middle Ages to the present. Pinker highlights a number of important parallel processes. The "Civilizing Process" described by the great historical sociologist Norbert Elias of the increasing importance of self-control, manners, and social amity from the Renaissance onwards is prominently featured as a key feature in the decline of violence. Similarly, Pinker emphasizes the humanitarianism of the Enlightenment and subsequent reform movements. In the 20th century, the "Rights Revolution" that has brought widespread acceptance of religious and ethnic minorities, women, and homosexuals, is also discussed as improving our societies. Pinker makes the important point that while the 20th century saw great violence with the tremendous crimes committed by totalitarian states and the huge casulties of WWI and WWII, on a per capita basis, there is continued decline which has accelerated in the post-WWII era.

All of these phenomena are generally well known to historians and many social scientists. Pinker deserves considerable credit for bringing them before the broad reading public and for synthesizing them into one broad arc. That said, Pinker's presentation and discussion of these topics is uneven. In general, Pinker does better when drawing on political science and other social science literature. His discussion of the democratic peace phenomenon, for example, is quite good. His discussions of historical topics often leads a good deal to be desired. Treating the admirable Barbara Tuchman as an authoritative source on late Medieval Europe when there is a lot of excellent secondary literature seems a bit lazy. Referring to Napoleonic France as the first fascist state is very misleading about both France in this period and 20th century fascism. I share Pinker's enthusiasm for Enlightenment reformism but his schematic version of the Enlightenment is a distortion of this rich historical phenomenon. Pinker also overlooks an important complication of his primary story. All of his discussion of the decline in violence from the Middle Ages onward, the Civilizing Process, Enlightenment Humanitarianism, etc., is based on European examples. But this is the same period during which European expansion results in the victimization of the pitiful remnant of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere, Australia, and the Pacific. It is also largely the period of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which probably caused a marked increase in violence in sub-Saharan Africa. These phenomena were accompanied and followed by considerable imperialist-colonial depredations, some of which had marked destabilizing effects. One of the most traumatic events of the 19th century was the Taiping Rebellion, which caused tens of millions of deaths in China. The Taiping revolt was partly a result of the destabilization of the Qing regime by European colonialism. None of this means that Pinker is wrong about the overall story but its a much more complicated evolution than he suggests.

In the final part of the book, Pinker discusses the possible mechanisms of the decline in violence. This is largely a discussion of possibly relevant psychological processes. Pinker discusses psychological processes that would favor violence and other processes that would reduce violence. As with the descriptive part of the book, this is an effort to synthesize a lot of prior literature, notably social psychology literature. Pinker develops an interesting model in which some psychological mechanisms could interact in virtuous circles to enhance personal restraint, sympathy with others, and improve sociability. This is somewhat speculative but plausible. In one case, Pinker offers an interesting specific hypothesis that the decline in violence and increase in social tolerance we've experienced in the past decades is due to the Flynn effect, an apparent increase in certain aspects of intelligence across the 20th century. Also as with the first section of the book, these discussions are uneven. Pinker does better when discussing social psychology literature. As someone who is involved in neurobiology research, I found his efforts at including brain mechanisms overly simple. Given his reliance on social psychology studies for many of his most important analyses, the gestures at neurobiology add little to his overall presentation.

Another deficiency of this book is Pinker's style of argumentation. On a paragraph by paragraph basis, Pinker is a clear and often engaging writer. Some sections could be confusing because of a tendency to abruptly reverse directions. In a section on the decline in crime in recent decades, he expands at some length on the effects of increased incarceration rates. He then abruptly changes course and attacks this idea. Without careful reading, it would be possible to take very different conclusions away from this discussion. Similarly, he has a discussion of so-called power law relationships in which he suggests the presence of apparent power law curves suggests a uniform process. He later suggests that dual processes could underly a power law curve and, in fact, the existence of a an apparent power law curve tell you nothing about whether a single or multiple processes underlies the phenomenon under study. Pinker also has a tendency to punctuate his analyses with opinionated asides that may or may not be relevant or valid. The purportedly destructive effects of the 1960s counterculture seems to be a idee fixe.

This book would have benefited from a major revision prior to publication, some shortening, and a lot more historical research.
154 internautes sur 182 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An analytical, methodical juggernaut of guarded optimism 8 octobre 2011
Par David Everling - Publié sur
In his lauded but controversial best-seller "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature", Steven Pinker set out to quash a romanticized nostalgia for the lifestyle of people in pre-state societies: the myth of the "noble savage". Now, in his new book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined", Steven Pinker extends this rectification of prevailing but misguided opinion to grand scale, presenting a strong case for our ennobled present; we are living in the most peaceful era humanity has ever known.

Pinker blows the reader away (forgive the violent metaphor) with sheer weight of analytical shot. At 700 pages of text interspersed with graphs and heaps of reference data, "Better Angels" is thorough-going and methodical because it has to be; contradicting common folk theories (like the noble savage), overriding an often overwhelming sense of unceasing or imminent violence from media coverage (see compassion fatigue), and compensating for a general lack of statistical thinking and probabilistic understanding in the lay public is no easy task. People are right to be skeptical of controversial theories, and knowing this Pinker has patiently lain it all out for us to see for ourselves that violence truly has declined with clear and unambiguously downward direction.

"Better Angels" is structured around an inventory of six Trends, five Inner Demons with four Better Angels, and five Historical Forces (Pinker can't help but enumerate). More than half of the book is dedicated to a chronological exploration of the Trends of our history, six paradigm shifts in the human condition: The Pacification Process, The Civilizing Process, The Humanitarian Revolution, The Long Peace, The New Peace, and The Rights Revolutions. The bulk of the remaining half of the text is a fascinating look at psychology and sociology, showcasing a combined total of nine human traits (the Better Angels & Inner Demons) that dictate our behavior depending on their interplay with our environment and circumstance. The last five items in Pinker's syllabus, the five Historical Forces, feature in the concluding chapter and encapsulate much of the book's overall content by reflecting combinations of historical trend and human trait.

The Five Major Historical Forces for Peace:

The Leviathan (the state; reigns in internal violence)
Gentle Commerce (economic incentives for cooperation)
Feminization (empowerment of women; men are naturally more violent)
The Expanding Circle (empathy; sympathizing with ever wider classes)
The Escalator of Reason (rationality; application of empathy)

A few minor quibbles with value judgments aside, "The Better Angels of Our Nature" assiduously justifies its subtitular contention: violence really has declined, and now it's not so hard to see why. Steven Pinker has assembled vast quantities of data to support his position, sourced in turn by the assemblies of other preeminent scholars in ethnography, anthropology, and the history of man. Add to this a trove of lab-tested social psychology, game theory, and the areas of Pinker's own expertise in cognitive psychology. The resulting dissertation, structured with the incredible skill and forethought that define Steven Pinker's books, sums these component analyses into the rational juggernaut needed to upend the conventional wisdom it is up against. Though consistently dispassionate in tone and bearing throughout, the title of this book betrays its emotional impact: optimism for humanity.
51 internautes sur 64 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Compelling, Credible - 8 novembre 2011
Par Loyd E. Eskildson - Publié sur
Pinker tells us we may be living in the most peaceful ear of man's existence. This conclusion is substantiated via six trends, five 'inner demons,' four 'better angels,' and five historical forces.

The first of the six trends took place over millennia, and consisted of the transition from the anarchy of hunting and gathering societies to agricultural civilizations with cities and governments some 5,000 years ago. That change brought a reduction in chronic raiding and feuding, and an approximate 5X decrease in violent death rates. The second spanned more than half a millennium (between the late Middle Ages and the 20th century), and brought a 10 - 50+X decrease in European homicide rates. The reduction is attributed to consolidation from a patchwork of small territories into large kingdoms and an infrastructure of commerce. The third transition took centuries and began in the 17th and 18th centuries via movements to abolish socially sanctioned violence like despotism, slavery, dueling, judicial torture, superstitious killing, sadistic punishment, along with the beginnings of pacifism. The fourth took place after WWII, with the great powers and developed states ceasing to wage war on each other. The fifth trend, though more tenuous, is based on the further decline of civil wars, genocides, autocratic government, and terrorist attacks since the end of the Cold War. Pinker's final trends consists of the growing revulsion against aggression on smaller scales, including violence against minorities (civil rights), women (women's rights), children (children's rights), and homosexuals (gay rights).

The five inner demons include predatory violence deployed as a means to an end, dominance(urge for authority, prestige, glory, and power, revenge (retribution, punishment, and justice, sadism (pleasure in another's suffering), and ideology (shared belief system that justifies unlimited violence in pursuit of unlimited good). The four better angels are motives orienting away from violence and towards cooperation and altruism. These include empathy, self-control, moral sense, and reason (allows us to reflect on ways to better live our lives). The five historical forces are comprised of a state with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, commerce providing a positive-sum game in which everybody can win and technological progress, feminization involves increasingly respecting the interests and values of women, cosmopolitan forces such as literacy, mobility, and mass media prompt people to take the perspective of those unlike themselves, and reason can bring people to recognize the futility of trying to boosting their own interests over others.

Bottom-Line: 'The Better Angels of Our Nature' reaches a somewhat surprising, though well-documented, well-reasoned, and welcome conclusion.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 One for the Library, Classroom, and Everyone Who Cares 20 juillet 2013
Par Barbara Frederick - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
It's a big, thick book, but that's in large part because it is so very full of facts: tables and charts, references, footnotes, index: this is a work that is bound to show up on required reading lists in sociology classes, political science classes, perhaps philosophy and others.

Pinker has gathered this impressive array of data to make one point: we are growing nicer over time. We are experiencing a humanizing, civilizing force that has reduced violence of all kinds, from war and murder to schoolyard bullying. An important part of that is attitude shifts: we tend to go from acceptance of brutality to discussions about it, to reducing the incidence, to finding what remains completely unthinkable. The statistics on infanticide are, to me, the defining example. It used to be common for newborns to be killed or abandoned for any number of reasons, and nobody talked about it. The shift -- uneven across cultures, but downward over the whole world -- makes a study of interest to everyone, and Pinker gives us plenty of detail. But he does that for every category of nastiness, and that adds up to a large, well-written, very readable book.

You do not have to be all that well educated, or any sort of specialist, to appreciate this book. In fact, I recommend it to pretty literally everyone.
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