The Long Peace: 1945 - Present


mentalfloss
#1
Pinker explains ‘The Long Peace’

Trade, literacy, governments all have helped to reduce world violence

Violence may seem to be all around us. Soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan. Drug-related shootings and senseless murders splash across the nightly news, and even the schools are no haven, with episodes of hazing and bullying prompting a national discussion on how to keep children safe — from each other.

Violence may seem to be wherever we look, but the perception that we live in violent times is wrong, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker said Tuesday evening during a talk at the Boston Public Library’s Honan-Allston Branch.

Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology and Harvard College Professor, said we’re actually in a period referred to by scholars as “The Long Peace,” which began at the end of World War II, and which is marked by the absence of war among the world’s great powers.

But that’s just part of the picture, Pinker said. Interpersonal violence is also at a historic low, he said, likely brought about by the spread of civilization, of police and justice systems, of literacy and global trade, and by concepts of civil and human rights.

“Violence has been in decline for long stretches of time, and today may be the most peaceful era in our species’ history,” Pinker said.

Pinker spoke as part of the John Harvard Book Celebration, a lecture series that brings prominent Harvard speakers and other programs to each public library in Cambridge and Boston in connection with the University’s 375th anniversary festivities. The talks are coupled with the gift of 400 books to each city’s library systems to commemorate those donated by Harvard’s namesake, John Harvard, to the College’s nascent library in 1638.

Kevin Casey, Harvard’s associate vice president for public affairs and communications, introduced Pinker, saying that his talk and the John Harvard Book Celebration are extending the 375th celebration into the communities of which Harvard is a part.

“Tonight we’re going to talk about the ideas and the things that happen inside the walls of a university and a place like Harvard,” Casey said. “It’s an effort to … bring what happens at Harvard into our [neighborhoods]. We think that by touching every corner of Boston and Cambridge, it shows that Harvard really is part of these communities.”

Several members of the audience explained afterward how they enjoyed the talk. Sarah Griffith of Cambridge said Pinker changed some of her assumptions about violence generally and altered her sense of World War II by viewing it over the long span of history.

“He did change a lot of the ways I thought about violence and changed some of my assumptions about what has gone on,” Griffith said.

Pinker’s talk was based on his latest book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” published last year.

Records of past wars and new research into the lifestyles of ancient man provided the backdrop for Pinker’s assertions. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle before the rise of civilization was a violent one, Pinker said. Studies of ancient human remains have shown that some kind of violent trauma — skulls bashed in, arrows lodged in bones — accompanied roughly 15 percent of burials. By contrast, deaths related directly and indirectly to war, genocide, and famine during the 20th century, often considered the most violent because of its two world wars, amounted to just 3 percent, Pinker said.

Additional insight is gained by studying modern hunter-gatherer societies. Those studies have shown that there are about 524 violent deaths per 100,000 in those societies, compared with an overall rate of violent death in the 20th century of about 60 per 100,000.

Pinker attributed the long decline in violence to the rise of civilization, with centralized governments and disinterested third parties like police and court justices to resolve disputes. In England, where records have been kept for centuries, the modern Englishman has just one-fiftieth the chance of being murdered compared with his medieval ancestor 800 years ago.

Commerce may also be a major factor in the decline of violence, Pinker said. Trade means that transactions where both parties come out ahead become more attractive than theft and plunder, where only one side wins, at potentially great cost to both sides.

Major milestones on the march from a violent past include the abolition of judicial torture, which used to include horrific practices like impalement, sawing in half, and breaking bones on a wheel. Other factors include the abolition of slavery and the decline of the death penalty, and the abolition of dueling, lynching, and blood sports.

The violence during World Wars I and II was indeed horrific, but when compared with the planet’s population at the time, World War II ranks just ninth in major conflicts, while World War I isn’t in the top 10. Wars between the world’s great powers used to be regular, if not continual, and lasted for decades, as in the 30 Years’ War and the 100 Years’ War.

Since World War II, the nature of war on the planet has changed, Pinker said. Nations that might be considered great powers, which once warred regularly, have had an extended period of peace, colonial wars have tapered off, and the most common form of warfare now is civil war, which is less deadly than major conflicts between large nations.

Even interpersonal violence is declining, with the incidence of rape down 80 percent since the early 1970s, with declines in the deaths of wives and husbands at the hands of their spouses, with the acceptance of corporal punishment in schools falling, and with rates of physical and sexual abuse of children also declining.

Pinker said he doesn’t believe that humans have become inherently less violent or that such tendencies have been bred out of them. Rather, he said, people have always been complex creatures. The civilizing effects of institutions, combined with the spread of literacy, education, and public discourse, have all favored our nonviolent inclinations, he said.

In the end, Pinker said, it’s important to recognize these peaceful trends so they can be better understood.

“I believe that calls for a rehabilitation of the ideals of modernity and progress, and it’s a cause for gratitude for the institutions of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible,” Pinker said.

Pinker explains ‘The Long Peace’ | Harvard Gazette (external - login to view)
 
Tecumsehsbones
+1
#2
Sorry, mentalfloss, but I think this is a load. I'll tell you why there hasn't been a war between major powers in one word.

Nukes.

As far as interpersonal violence, at least in the U.S. it rose substantially from 1945 until about 1995, and has declined by about half since then. Nobody is sure why, but one of the more interesting correlations I've seen in both the rise and the fall is that the violence rate almost perfectly tracks the increase, then decline, of environmental lead.
 
mentalfloss
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by TecumsehsbonesView Post

Sorry, mentalfloss, but I think this is a load. I'll tell you why there hasn't been a war between major powers in one word.

Nukes.

As far as interpersonal violence, at least in the U.S. it rose substantially from 1945 until about 1995, and has declined by about half since then. Nobody is sure why, but one of the more interesting correlations I've seen in both the rise and the fall is that the violence rate almost perfectly tracks the increase, then decline, of environmental lead.

Actually there has been a steady decline in violence since the dawn of civilization. A few hiccups here and there but a mostly downward trend due to the pacification process of becoming formal states.
 
Tecumsehsbones
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Actually there has been a steady decline in violence since the dawn of civilization. A few hiccups here and there but a mostly downward trend due to the pacification process of becoming formal states.

I wasn't aware we had records from the "dawn of civilisation."
 
mentalfloss
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by TecumsehsbonesView Post

I wasn't aware we had records from the "dawn of civilisation."

We don't.
 
gerryh
+2
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

We don't.


Then it's a bullshyte statement.

As for the OP, the guy is trying to blow rainbows up everyone's a$$ by ignoring Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan (twice), Africa, Central America, Kosovo, Chechnya, too name a few. Long peace my a$$
 
mentalfloss
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by gerryhView Post

Then it's a bullshyte statement.

As for the OP, the guy is trying to blow rainbows up everyone's a$$ by ignoring Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan (twice), Africa, Central America, Kosovo, Chechnya, too name a few. Long peace my a$$

It's actually about the decline of violence between major world powers.

But yea, despite those conflicts, the rate of violence has generally gone down.

The probability that you or someone you know will be murdered or tortured is much much lower now than when we were living in non-state societies.
 
gerryh
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

It's actually about the decline of violence between major world powers.

But yea, despite those conflicts, the rate of violence has generally gone down.

The probability that you or someone you know will be murdered or tortured is much much lower now than when we were living in non-state societies.


Do you have a link to those stats?
 
L Gilbert
No Party Affiliation
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Pinker explains ‘The Long Peace’

Trade, literacy, governments all have helped to reduce world violence

Pinker explains ‘The Long Peace’ | Harvard Gazette (external - login to view)

Yep.Sure looks like it, alrighty:

www.systemicpeace.org/warlist.htm (external - login to view)
 
darkbeaver
Republican
+2
#10
The OP is crap in it's entirety. War has never been as profitable. The great power Uncle Clam has ceaselessly waged war for seventy straight years without missing even one quarter. It's been a smashing success. The author is a lying piece of dog sh it or an idiot or both.
 
Tecumsehsbones
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

It's actually about the decline of violence between major world powers.

Which kinda makes a body wonder why he also talked about criminal and interpersonal violence.
 
darkbeaver
Republican
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

It's actually about the decline of violence between major world powers.

But yea, despite those conflicts, the rate of violence has generally gone down.

The probability that you or someone you know will be murdered or tortured is much much lower now than when we were living in non-state societies.

Money is the most devastating cruel murderous weapon ever invented. If you weren't so much fun I would scratch you off my reading list. Those with the money are the great powers you claim have retired from violence. absolute rubbish

A long piece of drivel.
 
lone wolf
Free Thinker
+1
#13
If the powers that be would quit messing in the affairs of others and then grow into everyday fabric could understand that all those radios, TVs computers and internet signals you sold them over the years taught them how to live in your life. Is any wonder they turn on their teachers shortly after their teachers leave them and they realize they've been had?
Last edited by lone wolf; Mar 19th, 2014 at 09:55 PM..
 
mentalfloss
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by gerryhView Post

Do you have a link to those stats?

“Nothing can be more gentle than man in his primitive state,” declared Rousseau in the 18th century. A century earlier, Thomas Hobbes wrote, “In the state of nature the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The evidence shows that Rousseau was wrong and Hobbes was right, said Pinker. Forensic archaeology (“CSI Paleolithic”) reveals that 15 percent of prehistoric skeletons show signs of violent trauma. Ethnographic vital statistics of surviving non-state societies and pockets of anarchy show, on average, 524 war deaths per 100,000 people per year.

Germany in the 20th century, wracked by two world wars, had 144 war deaths per 100,000 per year. Russia had 135. Japan had 27. The US in the 20th century had 5.7. In this 21st century the whole world has a war death rate of 0.3 per 100,000 people per year. In primitive societies 15 percent of people died violently; now 0.03 percent do. Violence is 1/500th of what it used to be.

Steven Pinker: The Decline of Violence - The Long Now (external - login to view)


You guys happy now?
 
darkbeaver
Republican
#15
The art of warfare is at it's apex of primitiveness right now and civilization at it's lowest ebb ever. Thanks to today's technology.Hell is full of statisticians.
 
lone wolf
Free Thinker
#16
No answer?
 
mentalfloss
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by L GilbertView Post

Yep.Sure looks like it, alrighty:

CSP - Major Episodes of Political Violence, 1946-2012 (external - login to view)

It's not in the absolute number of fatalities but their proportion based on the population as a whole.
 
L Gilbert
No Party Affiliation
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

“Nothing can be more gentle than man in his primitive state,” declared Rousseau in the 18th century. A century earlier, Thomas Hobbes wrote, “In the state of nature the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The evidence shows that Rousseau was wrong and Hobbes was right, said Pinker. Forensic archaeology (“CSI Paleolithic”) reveals that 15 percent of prehistoric skeletons show signs of violent trauma. Ethnographic vital statistics of surviving non-state societies and pockets of anarchy show, on average, 524 war deaths per 100,000 people per year.

Germany in the 20th century, wracked by two world wars, had 144 war deaths per 100,000 per year. Russia had 135. Japan had 27. The US in the 20th century had 5.7. In this 21st century the whole world has a war death rate of 0.3 per 100,000 people per year. In primitive societies 15 percent of people died violently; now 0.03 percent do. Violence is 1/500th of what it used to be.

Steven Pinker: The Decline of Violence - The Long Now (external - login to view)


You guys happy now?

Rate of deaths is simply that. It omits the rate of injury. War, battles, and skirmishes don't just cause deaths.

Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

It's not in the absolute number of fatalities but their proportion based on the population as a whole.

Read what I said about the rate of deaths.
But even so, if you have more people involved in strife, you have more people involved in strife regardless of the relation to the population as a whole. IOW, more violence is more violence regardless of the ratio of people involved in it to those that aren't.
 
mentalfloss
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by L GilbertView Post

Rate of deaths is simply that. It omits the rate of injury. War, battles, and skirmishes don't just cause deaths..

Fatalities and the idea of the long peace are just one example.

The greater picture involves multiple instances of violence - torture, for example. The result appears to be the same, in that there is a much smaller likelihood of enduring some form of suffering at this point in history than there ever was in the past.

Quote: Originally Posted by L GilbertView Post

Read what I said about the rate of deaths.
But even so, if you have more people involved in strife, you have more people involved in strife regardless of the relation to the population as a whole. IOW, more violence is more violence regardless of the ratio of people involved in it to those that aren't.

But you do have to look at it in proportion to the population as a whole.

You can think about it in a number of ways, but they all lead to the conclusion that it is the proportion, rather than the absolute number, of deaths that is relevant. First, if the population grows, so does the potential number of murderers and despots and rapists and sadists. So if the absolute number of victims of violence stays the same or even increases, while the proportion decreases, something important must have changed to allow all those extra people to grow up free of violence.

Second, if one focuses on absolute numbers, one ends up with moral absurdities such as these: (a) it's better to reduce the size of a population by half and keep the rates of rape and murder the same than to reduce the rates of rape and murder by a third; (b) even if a society’s practices were static, so that its rates of war and violence don’t change, its people would be worse and worse off as the population grows, because a greater absolute number of them would suffer; (c) every child brought into the world is a moral evil, because there is a nonzero probability that he or she will be a victim of violence.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined | Steven Pinker (external - login to view)
Last edited by mentalfloss; Mar 19th, 2014 at 10:15 PM..
 
L Gilbert
No Party Affiliation
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Fatalities and the idea of the long peace are just one example.

The greater picture involves multiple instances of violence - torture, for example. The result appears to be the same, in that their is a much smaller likelihood of enduring some form of suffering at this point on history than there ever was in the past.



But you do have to look at it in proportion to the population as a whole.

Since when? The ratio of dead and injured has diminished. I'll give you that but that it doesn't mean that there's less violence. Geeeez.

Quote:

You can think about it in a number of ways, but they all lead to the conclusion that it is the proportion, rather than the absolute number, of deaths that is relevant. First, if the population grows, so does the potential number of murderers and despots and rapists and sadists. So if the absolute number of victims of violence stays the same or even increases, while the proportion decreases, something important must have changed to allow all those extra people to grow up free of violence.

Second, if one focuses on absolute numbers, one ends up with moral absurdities such as these: (a) it's better to reduce the size of a population by half and keep the rates of rape and murder the same than to reduce the rates of rape and murder by a third; (b) even if a society’s practices were static, so that its rates of war and violence don’t change, its people would be worse and worse off as the population grows, because a greater absolute number of them would suffer; (c) every child brought into the world is a moral evil, because there is a nonzero probability that he or she will be a victim of violence.

The ratio of dead and injured to those not dead and injured has diminished. I'll give you that but that it doesn't mean that there's less violence. Geeeez.
 
mentalfloss
#21
Yes I can see how you can view more or less violence as more or less violent acts but we all do consider proportion even if it doesn't appear that way.

Take the Ukraine situation, when the riots started, as an example.

I'm sure most of us were appalled by the situation, but generally speaking, we didn't really consider the totality of violence in that situation as an atrocity.

Another example: I'm pretty sure everyone on that Malaysian flight is most likely dead but people are generally more focused on the reason for the plane's disappearance than those lost lives.

Why?

It's because we realize that violent acts will happen with lower magnitude than in the past.

And that can only mean a more peaceful existence for most of us.
 
L Gilbert
No Party Affiliation
+1
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Yes I can see how you can view more or less violence as more or less violent acts but we all do consider proportion even if it doesn't appear that way.

Take the Ukraine situation, when the riots started, as an example.

I'm sure most of us were appalled by the situation, but generally speaking, we didn't really consider the totality of violence in that situation as an atrocity.

Another example: I'm pretty sure everyone on that Malaysian flight is most likely dead but people are generally more focused on the reason for the plane's disappearance than those lost lives.

Why?

It's because we realize that violent acts will happen with lower magnitude than in the past.

And that can only mean a more peaceful existence for most of us.

That I can handle. But the OP says that violence was reduced. It's misleading. I'd bet that violence has actually increased but at a lesser rate than the population has increased.
 
Zipperfish
No Party Affiliation
#23
Pinker's book was exhaustively reserached but suffered the fatal flaw of confirmation bias from start to finish.
 
mentalfloss
#24
Quote: Originally Posted by ZipperfishView Post

Pinker's book was exhaustively reserached but suffered the fatal flaw of confirmation bias from start to finish.

I'm all for criticism but are you saying the entire premise was false?
 
Nuggler
#25
I thought Pinker was practising stand-up and was pretty good. Nah. Shows to go ya.

What about all that unreported crime and violence, Pinker, Eh!! What about that. He loses his comedy licence.
Just another BS'er.
 
mentalfloss
+2
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by NugglerView Post

I thought Pinker was practising stand-up and was pretty good. Nah. Shows to go ya.

What about all that unreported crime and violence, Pinker, Eh!! What about that. He loses his comedy licence.
Just another BS'er.

How much unreported violence would you expect?
 
mentalfloss
#27
A bit more from an executive summary that I've been glossing over recently.

“So, what explains the trend of major powers fighting fewer wars of shorter duration over the past 500 years? Well, to begin with, as we saw in the section on the Civilizing Process, this period witnessed a decline in the number of states, as small fiefs and manors gave way to larger and larger nations.

Fewer states means fewer rivals which means fewer wars (p. 235). But as we also saw in the section on the Civilizing Process, this period simultaneously witnessed a shift from a time when the only way to increase one’s wealth was to increase one’s territory, to a time when wealth could be generated through the far less bellicose practices of trade and commerce. This in itself led to more trade and less war between nations (p. 237), which trend has only increased as global commerce has become ever more prevalent (and global commerce has indeed exploded since the end of the Second World War, during which the Long Peace has held sway).

Another factor contributing to the reduced frequency of war between the major powers over the past 500 years has been the increasing separation between church and state in the West. Indeed, as we have seen, religion has been used less and less as a legitimate ground for going to war, so this in itself has contributed to fewer wars. In fact, the increasing separation of church and state *may also partly be responsible for the decreasing length of wars. This proves to be the case “since wars based on religion, like all wars of ideology, make all parties less likely to engage in or make advances through diplomacy, and more likely to make the parties keep fighting beyond the point when the evidence shows it is a lost cause (p. 234, 237).”

Excerpt From: A. D. Thibeault. “An Executive Summary of Steven Pinker's 'The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined'.” iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/...k?id=834277620 (external - login to view)
 
EagleSmack
+2
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

Excerpt From: A. D. Thibeault. “An Executive Summary of Steven Pinker's 'The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined'.” iBooks.


I beat the snot out of Michael Thibeault coming off the bus after school when I was 12. It was all fun and games starting sh*t when his cousins were visiting wasn't it MIKE!


....errrrr.... carry on.
 
coldstream
#29
There's and illusion of Golden Age of History from post WW2 to present of peace, prosperity and 'tolerance'.

It is in fact a delusion. The West has been in a state of disintegration since the early 70s.. economically, morally and culturally that will erupt in violence, Depression, global war and cultural dissolution in the near future. It has been in the sphere of the American Empire is a CONSTANT state of low grade War.

We have decade or two maybe of this illusory nirvana.. although we already see encroaching poverty, crime, polarization of wealth in the death of the middle class. It'll only get worse. We are not at the 'End of History'. History is about to lash back with avengance, and a new Dark Age.
Last edited by coldstream; Mar 20th, 2014 at 01:49 PM..
 
mentalfloss
#30
Wtf is a constant state of low grade war?
 

Similar Threads

2
Stephen Schneider, 1945-2010
by Tonington | Jul 20th, 2010
35
The Bombing of Nagasaki August 9, 1945:
by JBeee | Aug 11th, 2007
2
Flight 19 (1945)
by Jersay | Jan 2nd, 2006
8
USA Actions Since 1945
by Rick van Opbergen | Apr 2nd, 2005
no new posts