The visitors found that the members of the utopia worked short days, on average four-hour work days, had a great appreciation for art and science, used a hybrid economic system combining Marxism and capitalism that worked for the benefit of all members, and enjoyed happiness all the time. Frazier had thought the entire utopia through, and did many things very differently than the rest of the United States of America, from the communal raising of children, to new systems of education, and even to new ways of raising farm animals. He even used new ways of carrying food from the food lines of the communal mess halls to nooks in the "Ladder," a long stairway that doubled as a communal gathering place.Read more ›
These are the ways of a scientist and ways that Skinner suggested we all consider using.
Somehow this guy who worked with rats had other interests and other ways of sharing his concerns. "Walden Two" is one of them.
It's not "The Sheltering Sky" but, compared to what I could do, it's awfully well written. It's not the final answer on how folks should live together or even that much of a start - but it is a start and an invitation to all of us to consider how we can improve our conditions.
Even in "Beyond Freedomn And Dignity", Skinner didn't have many answers as to how culture could be designed for the better. But he did have the realization that we ought have to start somewhere. He also had worked on a technology that he expected others would improve on that might help us live more sensibly.
"Walden Two" provides an intimate glimpse into Skinner's world. I may not want to live there, at least for long, but I respect Skinner's efforts to make me think about what I can do to improve my living conditions.
Behaviorism may be limited but it can be effective, more than arguing over angels on pins. Small visible steps may be the best steps; small acquisitions of tested knowledge may lead farther than pompous rants or deep meditations.
Reading "Walden Two" is a good small step. A good step after that would be to learn about Los Horcones, a remarkable community in Mexico that, like Walden Two, applies behavioral science to design its culture. Los Horcones calls itself a Walden Two community, not because it imitates what's in the novel but because it also applies Radical Behaviorism. Skinner never intended that Walden Two remain just a book.
It's not an instruction manual for humanity; it's an exploration of certain models present in most communities. Many of these models still exist in our 21st-century culture. For example, children are still raised to compete with everyone else, through sports and the ubiquitous honor societies. We laud the winners and humiliate the losers. This undoubtedly enhances the inherent duality of the human mind; it exacerbates the (harmful IMO) mode of looking at the world with the "us - them" or "me - everyone else" perspective.
In WT, Skinner presents another way of raising children to allay this competitive, often merciless instinct. Is Skinner's answer the correct solution? One can only assume it isn't, but his solution does make the reader think about these societal patterns that are so often just accepted with no forethought or even conscious choice.
I know people who have/make time in their lives to question the very foundations of our civilization. I let my own life be too hectic; I often just fall into patterns of behavior. However, I do often spend nights reading, and when I randomly pick up Walden Two once every few years, Skinner reminds me that all of the flaws in our society are not absolute rules of human behavior. There other ways to live, and Skinner presents some of his opinions on what those other ways might be.
My own opinion is the Frazier's community in WT is not scalable, not even slightly, but I still greatly enjoy Skinner's exploration of civilization.
Walden Two is one big dialogue on the possibilities of society design. Like Orwell's 1984 or Plato's Republic, it is about ideas. Read more