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Walden Two (Macmillan paperback) [Paperback]

B. F Skinner
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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This fictional outline of a modern Utopia has been a centre of controversy ever since its publication in 1948. Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct. FROM THE PREFACE: It is now widely recognized that great changes must be made in the American way of life. Not only can we not face the rest of the world while consuming and polluting as we do, we cannot for long face ourselves while acknowledging the violence and chaos in which we live. The choice is clear: either we do nothing and allow a miserable and probably catastrophic future to overtake us, or we use our knowledge about human behavior to create a social environment in which we shall live productive and creative lives and do so without jeopardizing the chances that those who follow us will be able to do the same. Something like a Walden Two would not be a bad start.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Utopia? June 8 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Walden Two is a work of fiction that gives us an outline for a modern utopia. In the book, six people - two college professors, a former student and his friend from the army, and the girlfriends of the two young men - visited a commune out in the country. The commune had been created by an old school mate of one of the two professors. When Professor Burris received a visit from his former student, Rogers, and Rogers' friend Jamnik, about T. E. Frazier, who had set out to create a modern utopia, Burris discovered that his old friend Frazier had indeed succeeded at creating his utopia. But even more interesting was that when Burris sent a letter to Frazier, a return letter invited Burris and some friends to visit and see Frazier's utopia, Walden Two. Rogers and Jamnik were delighted to accompany him and brought their girlfriends along. Burris also brought along another professor, Castle, who was intrigued by the creation of a utopia, a feat he had believed impossible. Together, the six traveled into the countryside to find the utopia of which Frazier had boasted.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Constructive Living March 16 2004
By calmly
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Experiment. Vary conditions. Collect and share results. Raise concerns. Avoid arguments over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
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.
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By Al T.
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am amazed that people are criticizing this book because of behaviorism's obsolescence. Maybe Walden Two was presented differently to other people, but I initially read this book as class assignment for Psych 101 at Harvard. Professor Fernald described Skinner's WT as an interesting attempt to apply the principles of behaviorism to a society/community. I doubt even Skinner thought his novel accurately outlined the exact methods by which civilization should operate.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely an interesting read.
In contrast with the myriad of dystopian novels available, Skinner manages to have written a stimulating novel that is relatively free of major external conflict. Read more
Published 8 months ago by John DeBoice
1.0 out of 5 stars Skinner makes his point in entirely the wrong way
Rarely has a book evoked such rage in me as this one did. It's not that I completely disagreed with everything that Skinner said about a Utopian society. Read more
Published on April 2 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Taken for what it is.
Walden Two is not a story so much as it is Skinner's idea that by using the psycological techniques of a behaviorist a utopian society can be built (it can even be considered... Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2003 by Dan
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but bears comparison to other utopian works
There is a lot of confusion about this book.
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
Published on May 29 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Ages of psychology
...Skinner, in his biography, admitted, "I am not happy," unlike the characters in this novel, who wander around blissfully. Read more
Published on June 19 2002 by R. Wallace
3.0 out of 5 stars creating a fictional utopia is not very impressive
First of all, I agree with those readers who pointed out that this is not a great work of literature. Read more
Published on June 13 2002 by Pinhas
4.0 out of 5 stars A look into a fascinating yet frightening idea!
Imagine a world where you got to choose what you did every day (as long as your four daily labor-credits are completed), where, as everyone is equal to everyone else, the words... Read more
Published on April 11 2002 by Kevin S. Currie
5.0 out of 5 stars a novel theory
In this book Skinner presents his blueprint for a utopia based on behavioral sciences. While someone who is just looking for a entertaining story may be disappointed or even call... Read more
Published on March 18 2002 by Patrick Merlevede
2.0 out of 5 stars Extremely challenging ideas, but no strong foundation
I read Walden Two as part of a class assignment, studying the effects of secular humanism and other worldviews on this world. Read more
Published on Nov. 28 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars a tragic disappointment
What could have been an extroardinarly clever, engaging text is an inch-thick preaching of the merits of behavioralism, bashing Freudian theory as worthless. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2001 by S. H. Bristow
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