POL101Y1 Lecture Notes - Steven Pinker, Social Contract, The Civilizing Process
POL101 NOTES FROM NOVEMBER 26, 2012
LECTURE: CIVILIAN VIOLENCE AND WAR (PROFESSOR K.)
Violence is everywhere in democracy and laws enforce violence and there are even violence specialists
War is normally though of state en state and violence is generally monopolized the state. Yet Civil Wars
State sovereignty is destroyed or there are multiple sovereignties. There is alos a difference in
revolution and civil wars in that sequence and outcome dose not change in a civil war.
Ancient Greece: Peloponnesian War in 431-403 BCE and in 480 they beat the Persian. Thus Athens lead
479-432: Rise of Athens and of Sparta: It became about land vs. maritime, oligarchy vs.
democratic, military vs. commercial orientation.
Reasons for war: the rise of Athens alarmed Sparta and its allies. The war became about fear
honor and interest.
Corfu: 427 Oligarchs vs. democracy each with external backers. The themes for violence are
still the same, as the divided allies will take backers with external neighbors.
Civil War restraint: first shown in Cain and Able. This means that family argument is the worst
and holy places are violated. Drags people down and human nature is the same. The veneer of
civility is thin and there needs to be only a little change for violence.
Language is altered making it hard to think in other ways than language. If you cant say a thing
it is not a thought thus thought control is led through language control. This leaves no room for
a prudent leader (Phoesis vs. nomos) when ambitions outrun the interests. Lucidies
Pinker Believe that the world started with violence and with its growth violence has decreased. This is
measured by the rate of homicide and the chance of dying in a society.
The rate tends to drop within states as there is more equality.
Jean-R. Social contract and discovery urge. Believes that primitive society is peaceful (loners don’t
have to worry) but states cements equality that comes over time.
Thomas Hobbes Leviathan (1659): all societies in a state of nature are driven by interests, honor and
fear because life is nasty bites and short we get out of agreement. Thus we need a powerful state
1. The modern state has a pacifying effect
2. The civilizing process led to the development of manners. Violence always fluctuates and
they don’t always work.
June- July 1941: It started in Operation Barbosa when the Gemans invaded USSR. A tenth of the locals
turned on their Jewish neighbors (pogrom).
Why are some toxic:
1. Germans wanted the locals to do the work and thus created and atmosphere that
allowed this to happen. It only happened sometimes because it is hard for the locals
and they don’t wish to submit.
2. There was a Soviet occupation where it occurs. In Poland anyone could be on top
and thus the Jews were able to dominate creating hate.
3. Nationalism and Ant-Semitism: should be stronger in areas with a lot of Jews (test
by census before the attacks). Loss of Polish solidarity no pogroms where more
There thus needs to be a political assimilation to prevent violence and it takes a
village to hart the Jews.