Psychotherapy Services in South West London

Violence is in decline

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker in his recent book claims that far from being on the increase violence is actually in decline. The reason that vicious slayings and other horrific crimes make the front pages of our papers isn’t because they are commonplace but rather the complete reverse. Take homicide, for instance. Trawling through the court records of a number of European countries, scholars have computed that rates have fallen dramatically down the years. In fourteenth century Oxford, for example, it seemed relative to today, that everyone was at it: the rate back then being 110 murders per 100,000 people per year compared to just 1 murder per 100,000 people in mid-twentieth-century London. Similar patterns have also been documented elsewhere – in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The same goes for war. Pinker calculates that even in the conflict ravaged twentieth century, around 40 million people died on the battlefield out of the approximately 6 billion who lived – which equates to a figure of just 0.7 per cent. Incorporate into that estimate the war-related demise of those who died from disease, famine and genocide, and the death toll rises to 180 million. That sounds like a lot, but statistically speaking it is still pretty insignificant, weighing in give or take, at a modest 3 per cent. Contrast this with the corresponding figure for prehistoric societies – a whopping 15 per cent – and you being to get the picture.

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