Is modernity really failing? Or have we failed to appreciate progress and the ideals that make it possible?
If you follow the headlines, the world in the 21st century appears to be sinking into chaos, hatred, and irrationality. Yet Steven Pinker shows that this is an illusion - a symptom of historical amnesia and statistical fallacies. If you follow the trendlines rather than the headlines, you discover that our lives have become longer, healthier, safer, happier, more peaceful, more stimulating and more prosperous - not just in the West, but worldwide. Such progress is no accident: it's the gift of a coherent and inspiring value system that many of us embrace without even realizing it. These are the values of the Enlightenment: of reason, science, humanism and progress.
The challenges we face today are formidable, including inequality, climate change, Artificial Intelligence and nuclear weapons. But the way to deal with them is not to sink into despair or try to lurch back to a mythical idyllic past; it's to treat them as problems we can solve, as we have solved other problems in the past. In making the case for an Enlightenment newly recharged for the 21st century, Pinker shows how we can use our faculties of reason and sympathy to solve the problems that inevitably come with being products of evolution in an indifferent universe. We will never have a perfect world, but - defying the chorus of fatalism and reaction - we can continue to make it a better one.
Exhilarating, magnificent, uplifting (Economist)
This is the biggest story of our time. It's about the many ways in which the world is improving, and why we don't believe it (Fraser Nelson Spectator)
Pinker is right. Not just a bit right, but completely, utterly, incontrovertibly right ... for most people, life is better, even if they don't realise it (Dominic Sandbrook Daily Mail)
Awesome. The confidence with which Pinker tears through the issues that cause such deep anxiety today is compelling (William Davies Guardian)
A characteristically fluent, decisive and data-rich demonstration of why, given the chance to live at any point in human history, only a stone-cold idiot would choose any time other than the present (Sam Leith Spectator)
A new, optimistic view of the world ... Things are not as bad as your Facebook news feed makes them seem ... a cheerful, contrarian tract for dark times (Niall Ferguson Sunday Times)
A goldmine of startling graphs and killer facts about the way we live now. Everyone should read this book and, just for once, be enthralled by what humankind has achieved (Iain Macwhirter Herald)
Brimming with surprising data and entertaining anecdotes ... a genuinely enlightening book (Jan-Werner Müller Financial Times)
Today we are living healthier, wealthier lives - and it's thanks to the values of the Enlightenment ... a passionate book in praise of Enlightenment values (David Aaronovitch The Times)