Response to the Book Review Symposium: Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature

Jun 27th, 2015
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It is true, as the reviewers note, that I point out some good things about modern liberal democracies, particularly that they have relatively low rates of several categories of violence such as war, homicide, and aggression against women, children, and gay people. But I will go out on a limb and submit that this is not an ideological dogma but a defensible factual claim.

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556797book-review2015SOC0010.1177/0038038514556797SociologyResponseResponseResponse to the Book ReviewSymposium: Steven Pinker,The Better Angels of OurNatureSociology16 The Author(s) 2015Reprints and permissions:sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/0038038514556797soc.sagepub.comSteven PinkerHarvard University, USASteven PinkerThe Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and HumanityLondon: Penguin, 2012, 12.99 (ISBN: 9780141034645), 1056 pp.Response to Book Review Symposium (Sociology 47(6)[2013]: 12241232)They say that ideology is like breath: you never smell your own.1 And so I was not surprisedto see my book The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanitydescribed as ideological by reviewers who strike me as black pots in glass houses castingthe first stone. By the same token, it is not easy for an author to defend himself against suchan accusation: I am not ideological is bound to sound as convincing as I am not a crookand I did not have sex with that woman.But I will take my chances. The arguments in The Better Angels of Our Nature are in factnot ideological. They are empirical, though the facts on which those arguments are based arebound to gore some oxen of the hard left, critical theory, and various forms of post-X-ism(together with certain livestock of the hard right, libertarianism, and anarchism).As I note in the preface, and as the paper and

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