Are War and Violence Really in Decline?


True, Jacqui. 2014. “Are War and Violence Really in Decline?” Australian Journal of International Affairs, 68 (5): 487–94.

Author: Jacqui True


"A powerful thesis—that we have won the war on war, and that war and violence have never been as low as they are today—has emerged recently in the realm of popular non-fiction, the type that frequent flyers purchase in airport bookstores. It includes Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker’s (2011) The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes, Joshua Goldstein’s (2011) Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide, Ian Morris’s (2014) War! What Is It Good For? Conflict and the Progress of Civilisation from Primates to Robots, and Jared Diamond’s (2012) The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? For international relations scholars and specialists, this literature has major implications since it takes on, in broad-brush, central questions about the causes and consequences of global violence. Here, I engage mainly with Pinker’s tome in this genre, and show it to be not only wrong, but both methodologically flawed and morally troubling. The declinist thesis diverts our attention from noticing and analysing violence which is often not publically reported, recorded or counted, and which is a large part of the violence being perpetrated today" (True 2014, p. 487).

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Gender-Based Violence, Violence

Year: 2014

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