ARE STRONG STATES KEY TO REDUCING VIOLENCE? A TEST OF PINKER
STEVEN PINKER CLAIMS in The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) that nearly all social-scientific evidence tells us violence is declining. This paper makes no claims against Pinker’s main argument; criticisms of it having been addressed elsewhere (Pinker 2015). However, one secondary hypothesis Pinker puts forward is that the development of strong states was a key factor in the decline of violence (2011, 42). Summarizing his reading of the evidence, Pinker writes, “[t]he reduction of homicide by government control is so obvious to anthropologists that they seldom document it with numbers… It goes without saying that people that have been brought under the jurisdiction of a government will not fight as much, so they are simply excluded from studies in indigenous societies” (2011, 55–56). While Pinker cites one survey of traditional societies that finds that before World War I such societies were frequently more violent,1 he otherwise deems the connection between the rise of states and the decline of violence obvious and uncontroversial.