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STUDY: The myth of declining violence: Liberal evolutionism and violent complexity
#1
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1...7916682108

Abstract:
The publication of Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature popularized an emerging orthodoxy in political and social science – that is, that violence and warfare have been declining over the past century, particularly since the end of the Second World War. Invoking the scientific and political neutrality of their data and evidence, Pinker and other ‘declinists’ insist that powerful, liberal democratic states have subdued humans’ evolutionary disposition to violence. This article analyses the heuristic validity and political framework of these claims. The article examines, in particular, the declinists’ interpretation and use of demographic, archaeological, anthropological and historical evidence. The article argues that the declinists’ arguments are embedded in a utopian liberalism that has its own deep roots in the ‘cultural volition’ and history of human violence. The article concludes that the declinists have either misunderstood or misrepresented the evidence in order to promote their own neoliberal political interests and ideologies.
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#2
John Gray also wrote a hit piece on Pinker's book, complete with dry British humor: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/m...-declining
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#3
Paywall-ed. Sounds interesting though. I've been wanting something just like this.
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#4
Also interested. Not showing up on Sci-Hub, so if anyone gets a copy, do, ahem, accidentally leave it on a bus somewhere.
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#5
(Thu, 11 May 2017 19:50:16 +0000, 07:50 PM)Rick Carp Wrote: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1...7916682108

Abstract:
The publication of Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature popularized an emerging orthodoxy in political and social science – that is, that violence and warfare have been declining over the past century, particularly since the end of the Second World War. Invoking the scientific and political neutrality of their data and evidence, Pinker and other ‘declinists’ insist that powerful, liberal democratic states have subdued humans’ evolutionary disposition to violence. This article analyses the heuristic validity and political framework of these claims. The article examines, in particular, the declinists’ interpretation and use of demographic, archaeological, anthropological and historical evidence. The article argues that the declinists’ arguments are embedded in a utopian liberalism that has its own deep roots in the ‘cultural volition’ and history of human violence. The article concludes that the declinists have either misunderstood or misrepresented the evidence in order to promote their own neoliberal political interests and ideologies.


Jeff Lewis is Professor of media and cultural politics at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. He is co-director of the Human Security and Disasters research program. His publications include – Language Wars: The Role of Media and Culture in Global Terror and Political Violence (2005), Crisis in the Global Mediasphere (2011), and Media, Culture and Human Violence: From Savage Lovers to Violent Complexity (2015).
Belinda Lewis is Senior Lecturer in International Health at Monash University. She is a lead investigator on a Victorian Government funded research project into social cohesion, community resilience and extremist violence in Australia. As well as numerous refereed research papers, she is author of Bali’s Silent Crisis (2009) and Health Communication: A Media and Cultural Studies Approach (2014).


I haven't yet read the piece, but from their bios these authors don't inspire a lot of confidence in terms of being able to rebut the more meaty anthropological claims made by Pinker. They seem like your typical lefty Cultural Studies profs.

If one is going to critique Pinker from a lefty cultural perspective that includes arguments around modern historical facts and current events, the best I've seen so far is from Edward Herman and David Peterson:

Reality Denial: Steven Pinker's Apologetics for Western Imperial Violence.

http://coldtype.net/Assets.12/PDFs/0812.PinkerCrit.pdf

At 148 pages, it goes into great detail.
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#6
Odin, do you happen to have a tl;dr of that book? Some sort of summary would be interesting.
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#7
(Mon, 15 May 2017 12:13:20 +0000, 12:13 PM)alexander Wrote: Odin, do you happen to have a tl;dr of that book? Some sort of summary would be interesting.

There's a shorter version here:

http://isreview.org/issue/86/steven-pink...e-violence
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#8
This is magnificent! Thank you so much.
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#9
Also recommended, Pinker’s List, by Brian Ferguson. Appears in the excellent, War, Peace and Human Nature (ed: Fry).
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#10
One more thought on this: Suppose Pinker were right, what would it prove?

In his wonderful trilogy on slavery, David Brion Davis discusses the fact that the chattel slavery practiced in antebellum U.S. probably became, on the whole in spite of the continuing presence of brutality, less violent for the slaves and that many of them tended toward a higher standard of living and greater legal protection.

There were even many pro-slavery reformers who, insofar as we can tell, were, in spite of their racism and desire for slaves, genuinely disturbed by the overt brutality of slave treatment and pushed for the chattel slavery to evolve toward a kind of imagined benign serfdom with little or no physical punishment and strong legal rights for slaves. In some states, on the eve of the Civil War, slaves could not be sold separately from their family members, slaves could testify in court, and killing a slave was punishable by death.

Meanwhile, the most clever slaveowners toward the end of the chattel slavery period had attended to the practice of Northern capitalists and heavily refrained from physical punishment, instead implementing a system of incremental rewards and revocation of privileges to motivate slaves. Violence always loomed in the background as the ultimate threat, but it was rarely used.

By Pinker's analysis, we should look at this as progress - indeed, many pro-slavery propagandists made this very argument!

But I say it is a crock of shit - it is the sublimation or internalization of authority. The parasitism of the slaveowner became more subtle and devious, and the slave started to police their self.

To whatever extent Pinker is right (even if he is probably just straight-up wrong), he is a defender of the internalization of Leviathan. So, I think we can take the stronger position of saying, not only are you wrong, you would still be ultimately wrong even if your claim were true.
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