ISBN: 978-91-88061-66-9

Nils Petter Gleditsch


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Is the world going down the drain or are things getting better? Brian Martin has written an engaging book trying to address this large question. His ambition is not to examine all the relevant primary studies, but to assess the human condition by ‘summarising ideas from two or three authorities in the area’. Some readers may be surprised not to find either Steven Pinker og Hans Rosling cited at all; Bjørn Lomborg is mentioned only in passing. In discussion of the democracy, there is no reference to the standard indices such as Freedom house, Polity, or Vdem. The selection of topics is also non-obvious: Climate, death, democracy, deschooling, feminism, happiness, intellectual property, mental health, nuclear power, science, smoking, social experimentation, terrorism, war, and work. For some of us, schooling is more important than deschooling and nuclear power is more of a solution than a problem. On many of these topics he does not reach a clear conclusion about progress vs gloom. Institutions that gain from intellectual property have become stronger, but so has resistance to it. The climate is getting worse, but the climate movement is getting stronger. Thee hopes of proponents of nuclear power have not been met, but neither have the worst fears of the opponents. Smoking (or rather the restrictions on it) is the only real success story. Feminism is making progress, but the author complains that it is not enough for women to conquer the male bastion of power, rather these institutions should be changed). In short, the author promotes a somewhat non-standard agenda – but he does so in a personal, readable, and interesting way.