We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
The Better Angels of Our Nature Audiobook

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Regular Price:$34.99
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

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.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.5 (2631 )
5 star
 (1831)
4 star
 (516)
3 star
 (191)
2 star
 (53)
1 star
 (40)
Overall
4.6 (2241 )
5 star
 (1590)
4 star
 (422)
3 star
 (156)
2 star
 (43)
1 star
 (30)
Story
4.5 (2270 )
5 star
 (1496)
4 star
 (570)
3 star
 (154)
2 star
 (34)
1 star
 (16)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Christopher Toronto, Ontario, Canada 06-28-16
    Christopher Toronto, Ontario, Canada 06-28-16 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    142
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I cannot think of a more important book"
    Would you listen to The Better Angels of Our Nature again? Why?

    In the coming years I will listen to this book again, and probably again after that, because it has so much to take in.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr. Bloom Shanghai 06-13-16
    Mr. Bloom Shanghai 06-13-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A perfect book, a great performance"
    Where does The Better Angels of Our Nature rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This one was the best. The quality of the content, touching to a wide range of sociological, scientifical, historical and political topics is matched by the performance of Arthur Morey.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It changes the way we can look at human history and human interaction, and it does that through a very serious, scientifical process. The approach is very rigourous, healthly skeptical in its essence. Easy explainations or shortcuts are avoided, which makes this book extremely convinving and relevant. It really helps to understand the work we are living in.


    What about Arthur Morey’s performance did you like?

    Clear diction, nice tempo, easy to understand and to me was somekind in line's with the author mindset.


    Any additional comments?

    I will certainly read it again next year. It was fantastic! I recommended it to all my friends!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Greene 06-07-16 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    146
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A must read"

    A must read for all those who think the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryuhi 06-05-16
    Ryuhi 06-05-16 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    100
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    26
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An overall good books with a few caveats"

    Steven Pinker does use a lot of time to in almost all cases very thoroughly argue his points, most of them I think seem very solidly founded, and more than that, different theories and explanations are frequently discussed and I think given a quite fair observation.

    This is all very laudable for a popular science book, which this of course ultimately is.

    I admit, I frequently felt the wish to examine some of his sources, I do wish there maybe was a pdf with lists of references and such included, but to be fair, that is likely expecting too much (Many popular science podcasts will nowadays be meticulous about linking sources, so I may be spoiled there).

    I do want to point to a couple of points that I found to leave me unconvinced or critical:

    1. The problem of historic and prehistoric data:
    This is more minor, because I felt that Steven Pinker was pointing out sufficiently, that there are problems with this, but as someone who has taken a good amount of courses in prehistory, I want to strongly stress that any observation of prehistoric violence is HIGHLY speculative.
    We have a limited archeological record, one that only shows a fraction of the population of its day. We are limited in how accurately we can asses details about day to day life that transcend the pure material record.
    As an example, Ötzi, a quite famous neolithic ice mummy is discussed, and Pinker goes with a single interpretation of his cause of death and reconstructed life, without, as I think, sufficiently making it clear that this theory is not without competitors. He portrays him as being a raider, frankly, we do not know that, neither whether it is true, nor whether it can be seen as unlikely.
    And this also goes for preserved bodies found in bogs.
    There is a lot of uncertainty in this area which, frankly, makes any quantifying of data on violence very unreliable.
    Similarly, ethnographic parallels, using contemporary hunter gatherer cultures and similar to understand prehistoric cultures is a method with several flaws, some of which are thankflly addressed in the book.

    2. Historic phenomena being discussed:
    Sometimes the book will discuss certain historical practices to argue its claim without, I think, sufficiently providing a nuanced view on them.
    I shall use the example of the with hunts and witch trials which Pinker mentions in his books. The height of witch trials falls in the same era as the Renaissance, and in this context, I think it might have been useful, for understanding the phenomenon, to look at how people tried to rationalize it. There is quite some interesting information on arguments about witchcraft, like the the question of whether it was "real", or whether it consisted of what we today would call hallucinations and similar psychological effects.
    Pinker instead presents a rather simplistic model of "crazy superstition" - an also fails to mention the strongly ambivalent role the church played in it. More than one pope illegalized witch trials, unsurprisingly denouncing the idea of witches as scapegoats for famines and other natural disasters.
    I do feel that it is at least a fair argument to point out that something like that at least gives the impression of deliberately using this portrayal to enhance the impression of historic inhumanity and irrationality.
    This does not quite sit well with me.

    3. The feminization hypothesis for the reduction in violence:
    Steven Pinker does mention his believe in women / femininity / the emancipation of women being a causal factor in reducing violence.
    I am rather critical here mostly because I feel that he gives much less alternative interpretations, facts, detailed arguments and data for this than for many other claims.
    Steven Pinker often is very methodical about pointing out the danger of misinterpreting correlation as causation, he does not show the same rigor when it comes to this theory.
    More than that, when he describes states basing social systems strongly on authority ranking - and then also using the same model for marriage and family relations, by his own logic,he would be forced to identify men as a pacifying force in part responsible for the lower rate of violence in women - while making the contrary claim.
    I think that had he given more space to a nuanced view on this theory, he could at least have addressed inconsistencies like this or made a better case for it, but frankly I think he overall fails to make an argument for feminism, women's rights and similar being a cause of reduction of violence, instead of being a positive consequence of the factors responsible for providing us with better living standards on the whole.
    His reasoning seems more ideological than factual here, and that is I think a problem in a scientist.

    In conclusion, I still think this is a good book which provides interesting and useful information and is definitely worth your time, but I strongly advise a critical attitude.
    Steven Pinker definitely seems to be correct in his overall thesis, but I feel much less convinced when it comes at some of his explanations for this trend.

    Lastly, the narration is clear, easy to listen to and well suited for a scientific book, I would rate it as a great production.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 05-30-16 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    31
    25
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent and it just followed the evidence"

    Really good it provides all the evidence to support the main argument in a masterful way.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allan Treest 05-25-16 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Eye Opening"

    Loved the book and narration. Steven Pinker explains how much violence existed in "The good old days", how much safer we are now and what has caused this transformation.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Colin Couper 05-06-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fantastic!"

    This is one of, if not the most informative books I have ever read/listened to. This should be read by everyone

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MyPublicName British Columbia, Canada 04-17-16
    MyPublicName British Columbia, Canada 04-17-16 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    22
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "So much info, easy to get lost in the weeds and some conclusions don't make sense"

    Very interesting and I whole heartedly agree with the premise of the book. He goes into painstaking detail and statistics and graphs (audio graphs are tough to follow but you really don't need to understand every little thing to get it). The chapter on women's rights, especially violence against women, is where he lost me. No painstaking detail here, cites a couple studies, says most sexual harassment stats are wrong and that rape counsellors are wrong because they don't tell women to dress modestly and not drink. That rape is not about violence at all that it is all about sex. Now, had he backed all this up with evidence I might have continued but he did not. I wondered what the author actually thought about these topics outside of the book. I found anti feminists championing him and Pinker himself speaking of how he disapproves of the "hysteria around the idea of rape culture". I stopped listening at chapter 70. I might come back to it, who knows, probably not.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sbrzweig 04-11-16
    Sbrzweig 04-11-16 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "This book changed my life!"

    Professor Pinker's lucid, humane and funny book puts solid science and realism in the service of much appreciated optimism. It made made think much better about our world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacob S. Idzerda Anchorage, AK 02-13-16
    Jacob S. Idzerda Anchorage, AK 02-13-16

    Josesbox

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Outstanding book"

    What else can I say? One of the best books I've read/listened to in a long time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.