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  1. #1

    Default Persistence decline in violence in historical time?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...er-review.html

    What do you think of Steven Pinker's latest research? Reasons to be cheerful?

  2. #2

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    Yes and no.

    Possibly less physical violence, but larger threat of it.

    Consider the massive threat of violence from the State, that did not exist, because the state was smaller, and had less technological means to enhance their oppression.

  3. #3
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    I think his reasons for it are the most interesting.

    Why has violence declined? Pinker does not need numbers for his answer. As Europe became more urban, cosmopolitan, commercial, industrialised and secular, it got safer. Perhaps as important is the increasing respect for women – “violence is a problem not just of too many males but of too many young males”.

    He does not argue that there is a higher power sending our species in a beneficial direction. The human race has come to share the goal of finding ways of overcoming the universal appeal of aggression. The great social factors in reducing violence, he says, have been the end of slavery, the empowerment of women and the legalisation of homosexuality. Also, contraception has become cheaper, resulting in fewer children to unwilling parents.
    Well that's a good argument for gender equality: more empowered women makes a better society for all . And I agree that contraception (and probably abortion too) has resulted in less unwanted children, who then grow up in bad home environments and end up engaging in criminal behaviour as adults.

    What I wonder is, if secularism improved Europe, what improved the still deeply religious US? Surely there's more to it than merely following Europes's lead.
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    Senior Member Critical Hit's Avatar
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    Its the fluoride in the water man. Its turning us in to reptilians.
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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Green_Pine View Post
    Yes and no.

    Possibly less physical violence, but larger threat of it.

    Consider the massive threat of violence from the State, that did not exist, because the state was smaller, and had less technological means to enhance their oppression.
    Really? But surely the state is more accountable than ever, what about the private individuals with incomes on a par with nation states and the ability to act as those states do if they wish?

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Kross View Post
    I think his reasons for it are the most interesting.


    Well that's a good argument for gender equality: more empowered women makes a better society for all . And I agree that contraception (and probably abortion too) has resulted in less unwanted children, who then grow up in bad home environments and end up engaging in criminal behaviour as adults.

    What I wonder is, if secularism improved Europe, what improved the still deeply religious US? Surely there's more to it than merely following Europes's lead.
    Pinker's notoriously secularist, he was on the radio shortly after this and was questioned about why he felt the way he did about religious contributions to peace and non-violence, I mean I think some of them have been principally religious, for instance Ghandi, he argued that this was only in so far as religion had become rational.

    I dont have to agree with all his points to see that he has some good ones.

  7. #7
    Sniffles
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    And here's another review of Pinker's book:
    http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/20...olence-review/

    Another recent study on international relations came to an opposite conclusion about how wars are becoming more frequent.

    So count me skeptical of Pinker's claims.

  8. #8
    Senior Member giegs's Avatar
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    Violence is currently a less productive means of realizing a viewpoint.

    This isn't difficult.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    And here's another review of Pinker's book:
    http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/20...olence-review/

    Another recent study on international relations came to an opposite conclusion about how wars are becoming more frequent.

    So count me skeptical of Pinker's claims.
    Hmm, I tend to pessimistic too and I do think that Pinker writes with a characteristic liberal first world optimism but I know that violence in NI and some parts of Africa has declined since I was young. In theory the Cold War has ended and with that the threat of complete annihilation in nuclear or atomic war has diminished.

    I'm in two minds about it because the sorts of mechanisms I see as vital to transfering this positive development from one age or generation to the next are under pressure or breaking down.

    Likewise I would suggest that while unwanted children are less of a feature and less likely to grow up into criminal patterns of behaviour there are just as many conflicted adults and their internal conflicts are permeating some of what passes for politics and culture now.

    So there are likely to be just as many troubled people around as ever, ironically it could now be those from functional families trying to manage in a dysfunctional society, and some of them may resort to violence or crime.

  10. #10
    Sniffles
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    Well concerning the end of the Cold War, sure it ended the threat of big massive destruction of the entire globe - which in practice would have been an extension of the type of total war we saw in the World Wars. But total war itself is largely a recent invention as well, starting with the French Revolution. Before then, much of the 18th century was characterised by "cabinet wars", with monarchs fighting relatively smaller wars with their smaller armies of professional soldiers/mercenaries. So after 1945, the basic pattern has been that wars have become smaller("low-intensity conflicts" is one military term used here) and because of such more frequent. The latter study IIRC is only dealing with inter-state wars, intrastate or conflicts between sub-national groups has certainly been on the rise.

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