Book review: You think that today is the most violent era in history? This book shows that it’s in fact the most peaceful one

“The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why violence has declined” by Steven Pinker

This book is the ultimate history of human violence. The thick book brought us in a journey into the very dark places in history, with gruesome details on how different civilisations in different parts of the world in different periods of time conducted their violent acts as a daily occurrences, which can be overwhelming to read at times. The historically accurate Roman-style brutal crucifixion, for example, is even more sadistic than the depiction in the movie The Passion of the Christ.

Indeed, the book seemingly covers every single violence known in history, from war, murder, rape, bullying, violence against women children homosexual, all the way to violence towards animal.

But as the book progresses, it then points out the many pivotal moments that turned humans into a less barbaric creatures, such as the introduction of printing press that introduced empathy, and completes the thesis with its main point that today humans have evolved into a more civilised and peaceful beings, and that our time today is the most calm and peaceful era despite all the media portrayals. The gradual narrative is also complemented by all the available social theories known to man about the particular growth periods.

However, I stop reading it mindfully 3/4 of the way after I realise the arguments that Steven Pinker is presenting in this 800+ pages book are directed toward overly justifying the current status quo of State and capitalism (with weak cause-and-effect association from his own data) that ignored the dark and also violent side of it. Moreover, it also dawns on me a little too late that his arguments are biased towards New Atheism doctrines that would make Richard Dawkins blush (an argument that can be easily refuted, but that’s for another day).

All in all, great build up, impressive data, but disconnected conclusion. It certainly a big let down after such a promising start of the reading, hence the eventual 4 stars.