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The Better Angels of Our Nature Audiobook

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

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Publisher's Summary

We’ve all had the experience of reading about a bloody war or shocking crime and asking, “What is the world coming to?” But we seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?” In this startling new book, the best-selling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. In fact, we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence.

Evidence of a bloody history has always been around us: the genocides in the Old Testament and crucifixions in the New; the gory mutilations in Shakespeare and Grimm; the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals; the nonchalant treatment in popular culture of wife-beating, child abuse, and the extermination of native peoples. Now the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified.

With the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps, Pinker presents some astonishing numbers. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then suddenly were targeted for abolition. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the numbers they did a few decades ago. Rape, battering, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse, cruelty to animals — all substantially down.How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed? What led people to stop sacrificing children, stabbing each other at the dinner table, or burning cats and disemboweling criminals as forms of popular entertainment? Was it reading novels, cultivating table manners, fearing the police, or turning their energies to making money? Should the nuclear bomb get the Nobel Peace Prize for preventing World War III? Does rock and roll deserve the blame for the doubling of violence in the 1960s — and abortion deserve credit for the reversal in the 1990s?

Not exactly, Pinker argues. The key to explaining the decline of violence is to understand the inner demons that incline us toward violence (such as revenge, sadism, and tribalism) and the better angels that steer us away. Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, bargain rather than plunder, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence.

With the panache and intellectual zeal that have made his earlier books international best sellers and literary classics, Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature. This gripping book is sure to be among the most debated of the century so far.

©2011 Steven Pinker (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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  •  
    David 10-22-15
    David 10-22-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Amazing!"

    one of the best audio books I've listened to, a moving and mind bending book.
    I highly recommend this book

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Severson PORTLAND, OR, US 10-06-15
    Jason Severson PORTLAND, OR, US 10-06-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Wonderfully Detailed"

    At times I was lost and had to rewind, but the data and presentation are amazing. loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Phil OKEMOS, MI, United States 10-05-15
    Phil OKEMOS, MI, United States 10-05-15 Member Since 2017

    Say something about yourself!

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    "This is the The Best Non-Fiction Book on Audible"

    Over the past five years I have listened to over 300 books on Audible, mostly non-fiction. This is hands down the best one I have found. I am on my third listening of it right now. This is one of those books that potentially will change your whole outlook and to influence you for a lifetime. Pinter does this from an entirely positive angle. The author is brilliant at sharing the good ideas and skewering the bad ones from our age and the past 2000 years. This book helped me to see beyond the the graphic headlines of mass shootings and see the these incidents notwithstanding, we are in a peaceable era and as a species we have much moral progress to be proud of today.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    David San Jose, CA United States 09-28-15
    David San Jose, CA United States 09-28-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Has challenged much of my world view."

    Excellent book. First task was to convince the reader that we're less violent now than we've ever been, including dispelling notions of the peaceful native, check. Second, look exhaustively for mechanism(s) which could account for the decline in violence, check. Those are big deals. Author looks to put in context a lot of research and does an excellent job. This book asks important questions regarding why we see murder rates in Western Europe well below 1 per 100,000 per year. Also does a great job of putting in context why an Afghanistan might be different than Iceland. Really had me look at a lot of assumptions I've been making.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan E. Rogers Boston, MA 08-31-15
    Susan E. Rogers Boston, MA 08-31-15 Member Since 2016

    toberose

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    "Excellent narration; Outstanding book"
    What made the experience of listening to The Better Angels of Our Nature the most enjoyable?

    The reading was really good. It propelled the narrative along at what I considered to be a perfect pace.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Better Angels of Our Nature?

    Pinker's discussion of women's rights was so perfectly concise and moving. His high regard for women was obvious without pandering. I heard ideas that were new to me. Outstanding historical synopsis.


    What about Arthur Morey’s performance did you like?

    I appreciated Arthur Morey's pace and cadence. I think that he emphasized the right words and phrases most of the time.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    These are the good old days!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff VANCOUVER, WA, United States 07-08-15
    Jeff VANCOUVER, WA, United States 07-08-15
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    "The best audio book I've heard so far"

    It is long and took me months to get through, but it was worth it. Steven Pinker writes a very thorough and multifaceted look at the evidence in various situations and draws conclusions that are reasoned and measured. The facts alone are fascinating but his reflections on those facts are what really makes this book fascinating. I've bought some more of his books to listen to next.

    The narrator was also great, good speed and pronunciation. Very clear and easy to understand.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan 07-07-15
    Ryan 07-07-15

    Road warrior, love listening ~ love learning

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    "Look Forward to Listen # 2"

    I have made the mistake of writing this review a considerable period of time from completing the listen. The audible had considerable information to share and was entertaining at times, however I couldn't help anticipating the completion and moving on. I believe this is a listen that one is able to spend a considerable amount of time and listens to in order to garner all that it has to offer. It is more of an encyclopedia listen than an engaging, cliff hanging experience. I am considerably wiser and garnered a number of stories that will suit fine for wine party discussion. I will refer back to this at times for pieces I have missed or was unable to digest at that time. The book may benefit from an abridged version. If you like a little pain with your pay-off, then enjoy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol 06-24-15
    Carol 06-24-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Better Angels"

    Appreciated the historical perspective. The statistical analysis was a bit heavy. Would recommend to those who have the time to devote to this controversial view of the decline of violence. I learned!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Chris Eisbach Cheshire, CT United States 04-28-15
    Chris Eisbach Cheshire, CT United States 04-28-15 Member Since 2016

    Relax, have a homebrew

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    "Interesting and compelling"

    This was an j treating review if human behavior. Our baseline acceptance of violence has plummeted, to our great benefit. Sometimes too many descriptions of past evils, but I suppose that is part of the point.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Kirk Tulsa, Ok 04-22-15
    Kirk Tulsa, Ok 04-22-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Astounding!"

    The length of this book may appear daunting, but the content and accessibility of that content is excellent. The rate of reduced violence over human history is remarkable, and the author does a tremendous job of exploring the correlation and causality of the forces driving down violence. I recognize that not everyone will choose to read this book, however I strongly recommend it to everyone none the less.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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