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13 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Ein befriedigendes Meisterwerk
Unter den Sachbuchautoren ist Steven Pinker unübertroffen. Hoch verständlich, präzise formuliert und strukturiert, unterhaltsam und intelligent, ohne Arroganz oder übertriebene Gewissheit. Die Freude, die er bei mir als Leser bereits mit The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature und How the Mind Works (Penguin Press Science) hervorgerufen...
Veröffentlicht am 19. Mai 2012 von Hukrato

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2.0 von 5 Sternen A few original insights but superficial and quite irrelevant overall
This is not a full review but only an account of the weaknesses and errors a reader slightly educated in history or anthropology is likely to find.

Having read all previous Pinker's books, I think this is the worst. Digressing from what is his main area of expertise, he comes to make a cornucopia of mistakes and inaccuracies that should be duly pointed out...
Veröffentlicht am 15. Dezember 2011 von cassette playa


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5.0 von 5 Sternen Ein befriedigendes Meisterwerk, 19. Mai 2012
Unter den Sachbuchautoren ist Steven Pinker unübertroffen. Hoch verständlich, präzise formuliert und strukturiert, unterhaltsam und intelligent, ohne Arroganz oder übertriebene Gewissheit. Die Freude, die er bei mir als Leser bereits mit The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature und How the Mind Works (Penguin Press Science) hervorgerufen hatte, setzte sich mit The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes fort.

Das Buch ist schnell zusammengefasst: Kapitel 2-7 dokumentieren den historischen Rückgang der Gewalt in den teilweise überlappenden Sequenzen Pazifizierung, Zivilisierung, Humanisierung, langer Frieden (nach 2. Weltkrieg), neuer Frieden (nach Kaltem Krieg) und Menschenrechte. Kapitel 8-9 behandeln gewaltfördernde (Prädation, Dominanz, Rache, Sadismus, Ideologie) und gewaltmindernde (Empathie, Selbstkontrolle, Moralität/Tabu, Vernunft) Elemente der menschlichen Natur. Das letzte Kapitel fasst fünf Trends zusammen, die den Rückgang der Gewalt bedingt haben: Leviathan, Handel, Feminisierung, Ausdehnung der moralischen Kreise, und Vernunft (Pinker nennt hier auch Faktoren, die nicht in einem klaren Zusammenhang mit Gewalt stehen: Waffentechnologie, Ressourcen und Macht, Wohlstand, Religion).

Den größten Teil des Buches machen die Kapitel 2-7 aus. Nach deren Lektüre war ich überzeugt, dass Menschen sich heute weniger Gewalt antun als vor 100 Jahren, vor 100 Jahren weniger als vor 1.000 Jahren, und vor 1.000 Jahren weniger als vor 10.000 Jahren. Diese Erkenntnis hatte ich, wie vielleicht der ein oder andere Leser, schon erahnt. Aus dieser Ahnung macht Pinker mit zwei Mitteln aber Gewissheit: Erstens mit den essenziellen Statistiken ("narratives without statistics are blind", S. 193), in deren dutzenden graphischen Repräsentationen die Trends von links oben (früher, mehr Gewalt) nach rechts unten (später, weniger Gewalt) verlaufen. Zweitens mit Beschreibungen zahlreicher Gewaltanwendungen in ihrer heute kaum mehr vorstellbaren Alltäglichkeit ("statistics without narratives are empty", S. 193). Mord, Krieg, Genozid, Folter, Verstümmelung, Vergewaltigung, aber auch weniger schwerwiegende Gewalt wie Unterdrückung/Ungleichberechtigung/Verfolgung von Andersgläubigen, Schwarzen, Frauen, Kindern, Schwulen, Tieren waren früher viel häufiger als heute. Dieser historische Trend ist umfassend und robust, was nicht heißt, dass in der Vergangenheit ein stetiger Rückgang zu verzeichnen war oder heute ein Nullpunkt erreicht ist. Pinker hält sich zudem fern von Prognosen (vgl. Future Babble). Zahlen und Beschreibungen von Greueltaten können natürlich keine 450 Seiten füllen. Die Kapitel sind durchsetzt mit hochinteressanten Diskussionen: Etwa zu den statistischen Eigenschaften von Kriegen, den relativen Beiträgen von Demokratie, Handel, oder Atomwaffen zum Frieden, gewaltsteigernden Gegenepisoden zu Aufklärung (Nationalsozialismus, Kommunismus), Pazifizierung (Entkolonisierung) oder Zivilisierung (1960er), oder zur höheren Gewaltrate in den USA verglichen mit Westeuropa. Hier ist sicherlich für jeden etwas dabei.

Kapitel 8-9 befassen sich mit der Wissenschaft der menschlichen Natur im Bezug auf Gewalt. Hier nimmt die Informationsdichte etwas zu, beispielsweise musste ich die Abschnitte über die beteiligten Hirnareale zweimal lesen. In den Kapiteln werden zahlreiche psychologische Experimente besprochen. Wenngleich es klare Belege für die Heritabilität von Gewalt gibt und wir alle Mechanismen für Gewaltausübung (und Gewaltverzicht) in uns tragen, bleibt die Ausübung von Gewalt ein Resultat der Umweltbedingungen; Zitat: "The violent inclinations of human nature are a strategic response to the circumstances rather than a hydraulic response to an inner urge" (S. 52). Pinker sieht keine überzeugenden Hinweise für eine kürzliche biologische Evolution des Menschen zu einer friedlicheren Natur, sondern macht stattdessen sich ändernde Umweltbedingungen verantwortlich.

In Kapitel 10 fasst Pinker die in den vorhergehenden Kapiteln bereits angeklungenen Erklärungsansätze für den Gewaltrückgang zusammen. Erstens reduzierte sich die Gewalt durch die zunehmende Konsolidierung der Staatsmacht. Wie ein Schiedsrichter steigert der Staat die Kosten gewalttätigen Verhaltens, indem er dieses Verhalten bestraft (im Zuge wird Gewaltverzicht als Norm internalisiert). Ein staatliches Gewaltmonopol steht in einer positiven Rückkopplung mit dem zweiten Faktor, dem Handel. Das gewaltreduzierende Potenzial von Arbeitsteilung und Handel ist vielleicht der von allen Faktoren am wenigsten anerkannte. Handel ist win-win, oder, in den Worten von Friedensforscher Nils Petter Gleditsch: "make money, not war" (S. 288). Der dritte Faktor ist die Feminisierung. Aufgrund fundamentaler biologischer Realitäten ist das weibliche Geschlecht weniger gewaltgeneigt als das männliche (abzulesen in jeder Kriminalstatistik). Der zunehmende Einfluss von Frauen bedeutet, dass primär männliche Nullsummenspiele um Status, Ehre, Dominanz und Ruhm abnehmen. Hinter dem vierten Faktor, der Ausdehnung moralischer Kreise, verbirgt sich das Hineinversetzen in Menschen anderer ethnischer Herkunft, Nationalität, etc. Ursachen sind für Pinker Druckpresse und sinkende Transportkosten (Verbreitung des Romans und anderer literatischer Werke) und später Massenmedien (globales Dorf). Bildung und Kosmopolitismus fördern auch den fünften Faktor, die Vernunft. Wissen und Vernunft erlauben es, sich der Realität zu nähern und sich damit von Aberglaube (z.B. Hexerei) und anderen schlecht gerechtfertigten Praktiken (z.B. Sklaverei) abzuwenden.

Pinker füttert seine Ausführungen mit vielen Veröffentlichungen der Kriminalistik, Anthropologie, Psychologie, Soziologie, Neurowissenschaft, Ökonomie, Geschichts- und Politikwissenschaft. Es gefällt, dass er große Theoretiker (Hobbes, Kant, Elias, etc) nicht einfach erwähnt, sondern sie quantitativ hinterfragt. Als Laie des Forschungsfelds Gewalt/Krieg kann man jedenfalls eine Menge lernen und weiteren Erkenntnishunger mithilfe des umfangreichen Literaturverzeichnisses stillen. Ob man Pinkers Ausführungen überzeugend findet oder nicht: die Lektüre des Buchs lohnt sich allein schon aufgrund der Fülle des zusammengetragenen und unterhaltsam vermittelten Wissens.
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35 von 49 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen A few original insights but superficial and quite irrelevant overall, 15. Dezember 2011
This is not a full review but only an account of the weaknesses and errors a reader slightly educated in history or anthropology is likely to find.

Having read all previous Pinker's books, I think this is the worst. Digressing from what is his main area of expertise, he comes to make a cornucopia of mistakes and inaccuracies that should be duly pointed out. Unfortunately, these are quite a lot so that a review of this kind does not suffice. Anyway, here is a brief summary (I'll go through chapters).

The first and second chapters are about the ancient times, the dangerous past. There is a big lacuna in statistics here. Neither does Pinker uses comprehensive sources regarding hunter-gatherers societies (the figures he shows concerns only few societies), nor can we ever know about the past. As we find a great variability in terms of violence and social change in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, we cannot think that 'primitive' societies remained the same for millennia; so we cannot take the Yanomamo as our living ancestors. Indeed the warlike Yanomamo the only non-state society Pinker writes about. This was a famous case reported by Chagnon that has been heavily criticised by many academics (in a 500 page book on the subject Brian Ferguson argues that they became increasingly aggressive because of continuous Western intrusions). Actually, Pinker also mentions the !Kung San, writing about how violent they were with the European colonists (but who would be peaceful towards a sanguinary invader?). As anthropologists normally know, the ways and frequency in which violence is carried out in non-state societies varies dramatically cross-culturally. Pinker does not show statistics about markedly peaceful and egalitarian societies like the Piaroa , Birhor, Doukhobors, Lepchas, Fipa, Semai, Fore, Yanadi ,Kadar, Mbuti or Paliyans to name but a few, or other perhaps less egalitarians but equally peaceful groups like the Hutterites, Brethrens, Quakers, Mennonites or Moravians. All these do not fall within the author's view of human nature.
Also, it is argued that the state was developed because people decided that law was better than war. Actually the state in all cases did not originate through such acute reflections but with the sheer use of violence. In 'Society against the state' and 'the archaeology of violence', Pierre Clastres showed that non-state societies were organized in ways to prevent abuses of power. Violence was mainly levelled against people who wanted to impose one's force over others or against those who refrained from sharing resources. As primatologist de Waal pointed out, the same thing happens with chimpanzees. I think that this offers interesting ethical insights. I guess that everybody would rather condemn to death 10 rapists or impostors than 5 innocents. Well, one could make the case that in recent times the situation has overturned. It is normally people deemed to be innocent by the majority who get killed (Giorgio Agamben also makes this point). Such reflections of course do not figure in Pinker's statistics. Liquidating the issue of non-state societies in a few pages with scanty data, he then goes on writing about the civilizing process. The shrewd reader, though, would recognize the fact that we are no longer talking about 'human nature' on the whole.

Chapter 3. This is about the civilizing process. Pinker uses Elias' well-known book to illustrate the causes of the decline of violence in relative numbers in last centuries, highlighting how a change in more decorous manners by the upper class has helped such transformation. I don't know how he has interpreted the book but surely Elias talks a lot more about how our everyday life has become emotionally constrained by such new mannerisms than he does about violence. David Graeber, in his book 'Possibilities' uses Elias in the exact opposite way Pinker does. Also, it is evident from the reading of it that such manners and behaviours were created by the upper class in order to take the distance from the lower class, rather than being sagaciously formulated as to diminish violence.
Other inaccuracies: 'African American have often been more violent because factually stateless'. There's a serious neglect of history. Read, for example, Bourgois' 'in search of respect: selling crack in El Barrio'; he gives an idea about how this kind of violence actually harks back to colonial history.

Chapter 4. The chapter dedicated to the humanitarian revolution. Starts off with a few sensationalistic accounts on how terrible torture used to be. While highlighting very well this change (abolition of torture, etc'), I think he fails to take into account how things like 'sacrifice' and 'sorcery' were experienced and conceptualized by the people practicing them. His view is markedly positivist (of the like of James Frazier), an analytical framework that has been disproved by every academic working on the subject since at least the 1920s. Also, many have pointed out that with the abolition of torture, violence hasn't vanished into thin air, but has taken other forms. Foucault notably argued that public display of violence has transformed in private forms of oppression (from his 'discipline and punishment'). Accordingly, Pinker praises Bentham for his commitment against torture but forgets that the same man designed the 'panopticon'.
Anyway, I think that the greatest blunder of this chapter is his idea of 'gentle commerce' (?). I am quite well-read about history of economics but I'm sure I've never encountered such a term. With 'gentle commerce', I'd imagine two merchants on a camel or a horse meeting at a crossroad, exchanging a couple of bows, a smile, and a kilo of dates for some bananas, before trotting back home. Of course, such thing has never existed. Human history has witnessed so many types of exchange and economic systems (from gift to planned to market economy; although barter economy is somewhat of a myth, as David Graeber has shown in his last book on debt), each of them implying a different sort of violence according to the specific historical circumstances. If for 'gentle commerce', Pinker means 'capitalism' in general (although there have been so many variants), well, some people (Karl Polanyi for example) have argued that it was such 'gentle commerce' the cause lying behind the rise of fascism, the various nationalisms and the first world war. Not to say anything about the deleterious effects on the rest of the world, but, of course, this is not violence, nor it can make statistics.
Pinker also claims that African poverty is due to the failure of African governments. This is so superficial I don't even want to start talk about it. Reading Chomsky on the 'structural adjustments' policies of the IMF will do. I guess that the author has never heard of the 'world system theories' of people like Wallerstein or Gunder Frank who cogently argued that, due to its inner logic, capitalism always implies the development of only few areas to the detriment of the others. 'Gentle commerce', whatever that means, is hardly a cause for the decline of violence and, given the current situation, it's likely to increase it in the future.

Chapter 5 and 6. These are about the 'long peace' and the 'new peace' accounting for the period from WW2. Same unsuitable interpretations of economic history (page 287 is just scandalous). For the author, the uprisings in Iraq were due to anarchy and not to US legacy which is of course debatable. Also, there is a big misrepresentation of anarchism and Marxism. Unlike what he says, the first is nowadays very far from romantic utopianism but engaged in practical activism (see OWS, completely based on anarchist principles); the second does no longer believe in a teleological course of history (something that it has abandoned for about a century, Pinker has missed it).
There are frequent references about the eruption of violence in some collapsed states in Africa like Somalia, and it is claimed that this is due to anarchy. In fact, the reality is far more complicated (see authors like James Ferguson or Caroline Nordstrom for a close account of what's going on there). Violence attributed to anarchy is only brought up when we actually hear about such guerrilla warfare. There are so many places with no formal government where people do not start killing each other. Rural Madagascar is an example (Graeber in his book 'Possibilities').
End chapter 5: 'the motto of capitalism being 'make money, not war'' (?).

Chapter 7. In the overall better presented chapter on the rights revolution, Pinker, while praising such achievements, leaves out some important aspects. For example, 'human rights abuses' are only evoked when governments are seen as trespassing on some victim's person or possession (rape, killing), but they are never evoked when they eliminate price supports on basic foodstuff, even if it leads to malnutrition or famine. Both the man who gets shot and the man who starves die. Arguably, dying of starvation or of diseases related to malnutrition is even worse. For Pinker, only the first is violence. If we allow the second to be considered violence too, then the statistics would reverse.
Plus, he forgets to point out that all these were achieved through grass-root protest (not through the divine clemency of the state), the kind of protest that, according to him, leads to chaos and violence in other occasions.
Also, his claim that women in primitive societies are 'property' of men is false (read Strathern's 'gender of the gift' for a discussion on the topic).
The fact that punishment on children in hunter-gatherers societies does not exist is given only a line (how does that figure in the decline of violence?).
Says that the rate of impulsive violence of yesterday's adults was far higher than today's (where is the data?).
In regards to gay rights, Pinker does not mention that the categories of homo and heterosexual were not marked at all prior to the modern era. Sexuality wasn't a social identifier in ancient Rome or Greece. There, gay rights would have been nonsensical (see Greenberg 'the construction of homosexuality'). As for the animal rights, he does not give enough weight to factory farming.
On the whole, I don't understand the point of this chapter in the context of the big argument about the decline of violence in human history: all these rights movements relate to trends that occurred only from the second half of the XX century.

Chapters 8 and 9. These are the best chapters, where Pinker applies his expertise (in fact, he had none in the previous seven). Of course, his view of the mind is not uncontroversial (see Jerry Fodor for a strong critique of his position) and here too one can find a lot of errors or inaccuracies:
'Biological altruism is perfectly compatible with psychological altruism': this is just false. See Mauss' 'the gift' for a radically different account.
'Dominance is an adaptation to anarchy' (?)
The data in these chapters is only taken from his friends Buss, Daly and Wilson and Chagnon.
The view of 'empathy' that he puts forward and acclaims is a very Christian one, one that always implies an inferior human being to be empathic towards.
Finally, through the whole book he praises the great figure of the Enlightenment and their use of Reason which is thought to have brought the decline of violence. But I see a big difference between, say, Voltaire or Verri or Beccaria, and Pinker. The first were actually politically engaged: there was a lot of pugnacious activism and pragmatism in their thought. Pinker, on the other hand, seems too often very complacent and defends the same institutions against which millions of people the world over are protesting against right now.

To summarise, I think that the main claim he puts forward is an important one. We tend to think that our times are the most violent in history but this, Pinker has shown, is not true (in relative numbers, plus we are not sure about our far past). However, the explanation of this and the arguments he presents are often flawed, seasoned with unsuitable sensationalistic sketches and imbued with much superficiality that are not suitable when you want to make such a big claim. Words like 'democracy', 'government' or 'gentle commerce' are not seriously analyzed. Consequentially, his view of history is a very mechanical one: we were extremely violent in the past and thanks to the Leviathan and 'gentle commerce' we have become better persons. We either accept the political and economical assets of our era or we risk going back to violence and chaos. I don't think that a lot of people around the world would like to endorse this view given how the same organizations and institutions that the author praises are currently operating. Unlike what he thinks, people criticising modernity nowadays, with the exception of a few insane minds like John Zerzan, are not romantic or nostalgic about our past; they are not against cars or telephones, rather, they are against they ways the system works which, as history and anthropology tell us, can be organized in completely different ways, not implying an automatic increase of violence. Pinker identifies violence only with physical acts (rape, murder), and makes statistics in virtue of which he goes on ranking different societies and historical periods. But he forgets the structural and subjective side of it. In fact, a society with a 100 deaths out of 100000 per year could still be a decent place to live while a society with 1 death out of 100000 could be hell. The equation 'less deaths out of 100000=better world' cannot be made. At the end, using a quantitative analysis of violence and leaving aside qualitative aspects of it makes this book quite irrelevant; the arguments you find within do not live up to what its sensationalistic and cheap title would suggest at first.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Fundamental, 25. April 2015
Verifizierter Kauf(Was ist das?)
You can like it, agree with it or not, but this is a book to be read. It proposes and discusses the counter-intuitive concept that violence has reduced drastically over time, and Europe today is the safest place ever in human history. Fundamental.
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8 von 19 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen unreliable and filled with contradictions, 25. Februar 2012
Pinker has been one of the main advocates for the integration of the natural sciences with the humanities (a point powerfully made in 'the blank slate'). This is itself a very good intent given the uncertainty and intellectual nebulousness that pervades many areas of the academy. His is own attempt of doing so, however, is rather disappointing. The main thesis of the 'better angels of our nature' is that violence has relatively declined in human history and that this is due to a number of positive and valuable factors, including the formation of the state, the birth of 'gentle commerce' (perhaps a gentle term for capitalism), feminization of society and the development of reason and the Enlightenment. The whole book is sprinkled with graphs showing the plummeting violence rate in certain periods of history. At the end, the moral of the tale is that we should stop criticizing modernity and appreciate the benefits that it has carried with it.
This looks like a superficial analysis of Pinker's book but it is on these very simplistic terms that the argument is articulated. For example:

- there is no ethical discussion of why violence should be bad on the first place (a point that accordingly legitimates the fact that we should be 'better' now). Is death penalty against a multiple homicide good? And what about the war to counter the Nazi during World War Two? Many people would agree that such violence is good and justified. Now, if we look back in time or even elsewhere, we find that there are systems of justice that works according to different principles. Anthropologists repeatedly tells us that there are societies that employ forms of counter-power in trying to prevent exaggerated forms of authority or domination. In these cases, violence is directed towards whom is considered the 'bad guy' by the majority. Now, one could advance the argument that nowadays, from a world-wide perspective, the situation has overturned; that is, people who get killed, tortured or led to starvation are hardly the potential dominators but generally those from the lower social strata.

- I mentioned the importance of anthropology because if one makes claims about 'human nature', such claims should be comprehensive enough to include the whole range of societies studied (in these ambits I always have to specify that I'm not a naive cultural relativist. Actually, I regard the earlier work by Pinker and other evolutionary psychologists as highly valuable). There are long paragraphs about the notoriously violent Yanomamo. But where are the other thousands of societies living on this planet? Many anthropologists have come up with statistics that would suggest a different conclusion as that presented by Pinker (look at the Piaroa or Zafimaniry, for example). Pinker's point is therefore unrepresentative of 'human nature' on the whole.

- one could say that Pinker is the farthest thing from being a Marxist. His conception of history, however, bears a worrying resemblance. He argues that with anarchy we inevitably have a certain violence rate that almost mechanically declines with the advent of the state and a few other factors. But this of course neglects so many other complexities. It has been argued (Brian Ferguson) that the Yanomamo themselves were witnessed in a particular historical moment where many contingencies (including Western incursions) were destabilizing their social structure, thus leading to warfare. Also, assuming that 'man' has been the same from the Paleolithic to the birth of civilization is simply wrong given the full range of anthropological and archaeological evidence that we have. As well as being flawed, this mechanistic view of history prevent us from imagining alternatives and possible solutions to further the decline of violence.

- arbitrary is also his range of periods he analyses. There is a whole chapter on the civil rights movement of the 60s that is aimed at showing that the violence against animals, children, homosexuals and women has declined. But one might wonder what this has to do with the entire history of human beings. This conflation between thousand years long periods with very short periods of history muddles the main thesis of the book. Ironic is also the fact that these rights have been achieved through grass root movements, something that Pinker does not generally like.

- we are told that, at the certain point in history, humans grew tired of continuous violence and intelligently decided to institute a state. In fact, this is wrong. Historically the institution of the state has always been enacted through violence and oppression. Before the state, people have always and everywhere preferred real occasional violence rather than the systematic threat of it.

- capitalism is defended because it has made commerce less violent. The consequence of it at the level of global quality of life is nevertheless neglected. Of course, the 'horror statistics' that annually come up in contexts like Subsaharian Africa are a direct consequence of neoliberal economy (if you are a denier, please read a bit about it, then comment!). But for Pinker this is structural violence, that is something entirely different from physical violence. On this line, Pinker praises the institution of human rights but, as another reviewer (cassette playa) has pointed out, neglects to consider that we talk about human rights violations only when government kill or torture individuals but not when they implement economic policies that lead to famine and deleterious conditions. In short, it seems to me that defending capitalism for allegedly having decreased the physical violence rate and consider the dark side of it as non-violence is quite misguided and unfair. If that piece of 'horror statistics' were included in Pinker's anaylsis, I am not sure whether we could still talk about a decline of violence.

In short, with this book Pinker has made clear that advancing large claims departing from a selection of statistics does not lead to amazing results. Also, from the manner the arguments are exposed, I am very suspicious of the way Pinker have come to support his thesis. I might be wrong but I guess that he proceeded by 1) gathering the particular statistics that allow to identify a general trend; 2) supporting them with explanations in line with his own political stance and neglecting those that suggest a different conclusion and 3) relating them (quite incoherently) to neuroscience and evolutionary psychology so to give the argument a more authoritarian look. I am also suspicious that the people who have given a 5 star review are overall ignorant of the fields of knowledge Pinker naively draws from (history, archaeology, anthropology) and I am proven by the fact that historian and anthropologists of violence are little by little demolishing Pinker's points. But above all, I am increasingly convinced that most of American popular psychologists, with works such as this, contribute in the overall attack on any sort of political imagination, ultimately making people more stupid.
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1 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Good but flawed account of evolutionary psychology of violence and cooperation, 25. Januar 2013
This is not a perfect book, but it is unique, and if you skim the first 400 or so pages, the last 300 are a pretty good attempt to apply what's known about behavior to social changes in violence and manners over time. The basic topic is: how does our genetics control and limit social change? Surprisingly he fails to give in any clear way the explanation for this in terms of inclusive fitness which is entailed by neodarwinism Mostly the criticisms given by others (I read them all) are nit-picking and irrelevant and, as Pinker has said, he could not write a coherent book about "bad things", nor could he give every possible reference and point of view, but he should have said at least something about the other ways of abusing and exploiting people and the planet since these are now so much more severe as to render other forms of violence irrelevant.

Extending the concept of violence will provide a very different perspective on what is happening in the world right now and how things are likely to go in the next few hundred years. One might start by noting that the decrease in physical violence over history has been matched (and made possible) by the constantly increasing merciless rape of the planet (i.e., by people's destruction of their own descendants future). Pinker (like most people most of the time) is often distracted by the superficialities of culture when its biology that matters.

This is the classic nature/nurture issue and nature trumps nurture --infinitely. What really matters is the violence done to the earth by the relentless increase in population and resource destruction (due to medicine and technology) About 200,000 more people a day (another Los Angeles every three weeks), the 12 tons or so of topsoil going into the sea/person/year etc. mean that unless some miracle happens the biosphere and civilization will largely collapse in this century and there will be starvation, misery and violence of every kind on a staggering scale. People's manners, opinions and tendencies to commit violent acts are of no relevance unless they can do something to avoid this catastrophe, and I don't see how that is going to happen. There is no space for arguments, and probably no point either (yes I'm fatalist), so I'll just make a few comments as though they were facts. Don't imagine I have a personal stake. I am 71, have no descendants and no close relatives and do not identify with any political, national or religious group and regard the ones I belong to by default as just as repulsive as all the rest.

Parents are all Enemies of Life on Earth and women are at least as violent as men. The fact that women's violence (like most of that done by men) is largely done in slow motion, at a distance in time and space and mostly carried out by proxy -by their descendants and by men --does not ameliorate it. Increasingly women bear children regardless of whether they have a mate and the effect of stopping one woman from breeding is on average much greater than stopping one man. In my view most people and their offspring richly deserve whatever misery comes their way and (with rare exceptions) the rich and famous are the worst offenders. Meryl Streep or Bill Gates and each of their kids may destroy 50 tons of topsoil each per year, while an Indian farmer may destroy 1 ton. If you deny it or don't want to deal with it that's fine, and to your descendants I say "Welcome to Hell on Earth"(WTHOE).

Human Responsibilities must replace Human Rights. Nobody gets rights without being a responsible citizen and the first thing this means is minimal environmental destruction . The most basic responsibility is no children unless your society asks you to produce them. A society or a world that lets people breed at will and supports their progeny will always be exploited by selfish genes until it collapses (or reaches a point where life is so horrific it's not worth living). If you want to maintain Human Rights as primary, that's fine and to your descendants one can say with confidence "WTHOE".

"Helping" has to be seen from a global long term perspective. Almost all "help" that's given by individuals, organizations or countries harms others and the world in the long run and must only be given after a very careful consideration. If you want to hand out money, food, medicine, etc., you need to ask what the long term environmental consequences are. If you want to please everyone all the time, that's fine and again to your descendants I say "WTHOE".

Dysgenics: endless trillions of creatures beginning with bacteria-like forms over 3 billion years ago have died to create us and all current life and this is called eugenics. We all have "bad genes" but some are worse than others. It is estimated that up to 50% of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion due to "bad genes". Civilization is dysgenic. This problem is currently trivial compared to overpopulation but getting worse by the day. Medicine, welfare and "helping" of all kinds have dysgenic consequences which will collapse society even if population growth stops. Again if you don't believe it or don't want to deal with it that's fine and to your descendants we can say " WTHOE".

Beware the utopian scenarios that suggest doomsday can be avoided by judicious application of technologies. You can't fool mother nature. I leave you with just one example. Famous scientist Raymond Kurzweil proposed nanobots as the saviors of humankind. They would make anything we needed and clean every mess. They would even make ever better versions of themselves. They would keep us as pets. But think of how many people treat their pets, and pets are overpopulating and destroying and becoming dysgenic almost as fast as humans. Pets only exist because we destroy the earth to feed them and we have spay and neuter clinics and euthanize the sick and unwanted ones. We practice rigorous population control and eugenics on them and no form of life can evolve or exist without these--not even bots. And what's to stop nanobots from evolving? Any change that facilitated reproduction would automatically be selected for and any behavior that wasted time or energy (i.e., taking care of humans) would be heavily selected against. What would stop the bots program from mutating into a homicidal form and exploiting all earth's resources causing global collapse? There is no free lunch for bots either and to them too we can confidently say "WTHOE".
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2 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen Waste of a lot of paper, 26. Februar 2013
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The scientific method is fairly simple: Do thorough research, gather facts, THEN draw a conclusion. This book has it the other way around - and all of its abundance of numbers, statistics and case studies can't remedy that.

What's worse: It seems that the author has an agenda, and thus the methodic error might not have been an accident.
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0 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Gewünschtes Geschenk, 9. Januar 2014
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Als Fachbuch für ein Studium Psychologie war dieses Buch gewünscht worden. Erste Leseprobe ergab positive Resonanz.Kann so weiter empfohlen werden.
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