The case for optimism, cont’d: “Peace is increasing”

Is the world a more violent place than it used to be? Are war, chaos, and brutality against civilians on the rise? In his new book Winning the War on War (another one for my reading list), Joshua Goldstein begs to differ:

Goldstein also lays out his argument in a compelling article for the journal Foreign Policy, in which he marshals the evidence to debunk various myths and misperceptions about violence levels in the world today. A salient passage:

If the world feels like a more violent place than it actually is, that’s because there’s more information about wars — not more wars themselves. Once-remote battles and war crimes now regularly make it onto our TV and computer screens, and in more or less real time. Cell-phone cameras have turned citizens into reporters in many war zones. Societal norms about what to make of this information have also changed. As Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker has noted, “The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence,” so that we see today’s atrocities — though mild by historical standards — as “signs of how low our behavior can sink, not of how high our standards have risen.”

It’s one thing to hope and advocate for peace. It’s quite another to look at the hard cold numbers and realize that there really is something to be hopeful about.

More reasons for optimism here.

(via The Duck of Minerva)


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