Reading

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This page is a collection of comments on things that I am / have been reading.

Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of Our Nature

  • To begin with this book, I find it plausible that immediate violence and brutality have, in relative terms, decreased in history. However, I wonder whether this indicates that violence is in decline overall, including its non-immediate forms such as structural violence. It seems quite possible that while the average human's risk of being subjected to massive, direct violence (such as torture) is at an all time low, and yet, the amount of freedom and self-determination is shrinking at the same rate or even more quickly, as humans are subject to more coercion and control, including self-control that is instilled into them from early age.
  • The fictitious graduation speech at the end of Chapter 1 seems rather overoptimistic to me. Particularly the idea that the countries that emerged from the dissolving Soviet Union are democratic is questionable, considering the problems in Belarus (Lukashenko government), Kazakhstan (Nazarbayev government) and also the various Caucasian countries / Russian states that have suffered from various (civil) wars. This doesn't necessarily detract from Pinker's general argument, but it is a bit too naive to be really persuasive (to me at least).