Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker's new book is The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

From his Q & A with J.P. O'Malley at the Christian Science Monitor:

What made you want to write a book exploring the subject of violence?

It was an interest in human nature. I had written two books previously on human nature, and I faced criticism that any acknowledgment of human nature is fatalistic. I always thought this objection was nonsense. For one thing, even in theory, human nature comprises many motives and even if we have some motives that incline us to violence, we also have some motives that inhibit us from violence, and so just positing human nature doesn’t force you to claim that one side or another must prevail.

You equate Marxist ideology with violence in the book. Do you think that capitalist values have contributed to the decline of violence?

I think that communism was a major force for violence for more than a 100 years, because it was built into its ideology: mainly that progress comes through class struggle, often violent, and it lead to the widespread belief that the only way to achieve justice was to hurry this dialectical process along, and allow the oppressed working classes to carry out their struggle against their bourgeois oppressors. However much we might deplore the profit motive, or consumerist values, if everyone just wants i-Pods we would probably be better off than if they wanted class revolution.

How do you view democracy in terms of how much violence it creates?

Democracy is...[read on]
Read about Pinker's five best books on the decline of violence.

--Marshal Zeringue