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Walden Two (Macmillan paperback) Paperback – 1962

3.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1962
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: The Macmillan Company (1962)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007DJW6I
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 23 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #426,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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By A Customer on 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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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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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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