Unless you’ve been living in Mongolia, you’ll know that Steve Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, has just come out. It’s an eloquent and statistics-laden argument for the fact that violence against other people has declined precipitously in the last ten thousand years. It’s a big book: about 700 pages of prose and with copious endnotes, and I haven’t yet read it. (I believe it took Steve five years of intensive labor.) But I just got a copy and will dig into it forthwith.
In the meantime, over at his website Sam Harris has an interview with Steve about the book: “Twilight of violence.”
It’s a good interview, touching, among other things, on the question of how one can maintain that violence has decreased in an era when we had the genocides of Stalin and Hitler. (This was a criticism raised in a review of the book that just appeared in The New Yorker). Steve’s book has met with other criticism—I’ve recounted how the Guardian broached the idea that he might be seen as a “scientific racist,” an assessment that is surely wrong. But there have been great reviews, too (e.g. here), and a little bird told me that more encomiums are in the offing.
I suggest you read the interview and then, if you like how it went, buy the book. It’s a good, meaty volume, and promises to edify even those who disagree with it.