In ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined’ the Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker explained why, in his opinion, even the worst state is better than no state at all, or anarchy. He explains why he believes that violence – both criminal and military – has steadily decreased over the millennia. According to him we’re living today in almost paradisical non-violent times.
Nevertheless there are dark sides to these paradisical times, such as “the world’s greatest cataclysm,” the Second World War, which, according to Pinker, “one man was mostly responsible for,” namely Adolf Hitler. “But Hitler was not the only tyrant whose obsessions killed tens of millions” is a reference to Stalin and Mao. The context of this assertion is Pinker’s thesis that the timing and magnitude of wars are largely random. So could the 20th-century blood bath “have been some kind of fluke?” It is easy to see why Pinker would like to attribute the cruelties, mass murders and wars associated with the names of Stalin, Hitler and Mao to the coincidence of isolated sick psyches: if one wants to maintain that Leviathan has a fundamentally pacifying effect, these events must not arise from the principle or structure of the state. Pinker assumes that statehood, when unreservedly recognized by all citizens as valid, will drive the development toward less violence. To analyse the causes of the orgies of violence of statehood in the 20th century would bring him face to face with the fact that there are mechanisms in Leviathan that lead to a relapse into barbarism.
Nevertheless, with the few words quoted above, Pinker shoots himself in the foot, even if you don’t doubt their message per se. For the question arises as to how it…