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Walden Two (Hackett Classics)

86 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0872207783
ISBN-10: 0872207781
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

With environmental and social problems becoming serious issues in todays society, the search for solutions is evident. B.F. Skinner's book presents a fictional outline of a modern utopia in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct. This book serves as a possible example of how our knowledge of human behavior can be used to create a productive social environment while preserving the chances of future generations to do the same. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author


Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990), regarded by many as the most important and influential psychologist since Freud, earned his doctorate in psychology at Harvard University in 1931. Following appointments at the University of Minnesota and Indiana University, he returned to Harvard in 1948. He remained there for the rest of his career, retiring in 1974 as Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology.


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Product Details

  • Series: Hackett Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (July 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872207781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872207783
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 18, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 this book boring, I'm pretty sure that you'll like it if you have some serious interest in Behaviorism or behavioral engineering. Even if I have a master in cognitive sciences, I didn't find Skinner's ideas *really* "incompatible" with what I know, even if much of it probably remains to be proven, but the only way to prove it would be to set up such a community. Some other reviews call it a communist model, but the book actually includes chapters pointing out the differences between fascist and communist models, and Skinner's analysis shows, some 40 years before the Berlin wall collapses why the Soviet Union wouldn't survive.
I wouldn't call this book "unscientific" or "outdated" as some other reviewers did. True, I would enjoy some footnotes to connect Skinner's ideas from this book to the rest of his writing and I'm wondering what would happen if we "upgraded" this book to take place in the modern internet society and taking into account all new things cognitive sciences and emotional intelligence have brought us over the 50+ years since this book has been written. This book will give you enough "food for thought".
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Kevin S. Currie on April 11, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 'thank-you' are never used and where education, which is never forced, is something your kids just WANT to do. Is this better living through operant conditioning?
This fictional community is the brain-child of the famous (and imfamous) behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Skinner believed that all behavior can be controlled by modification and 'positive reinforcement.' Well, here it is. A Skinnerian utopia.
The book itself has no real plot to speak of. The central characters,a group of 2 university professors, 2 twenty-somethings fresh from army service, and their two girlfriends that have been invited to take a tour of the Walden Two community. The book (narrated by one of the professors) is the fictional account of the tour which gets extraordinarily specific. The communes education, commerce, child-rearing, and governing practices are well-examined and this book, whether you agree with good ol' B.F. or not, will have you constantly thinking from new angles. If you're anything like me (frightening thought!) you might find yourself actually talking back to the book. What a rare experience!
The four stars are for both the writing- Skinner does much better than most psychologists crossing over to fiction- and for the wealth of ideas which are sharp, challenging and scary. Although in the end, I disagree with just about every idea Skinner remonstrates, this is a book that I'm sure I will reread and ponder over quite often.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Bugs on May 2, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This influential book created quite a stir when it was first published in 1948, so much so, that many people actually started forming intentional, egalitarian communes and existing ones embraced many of the ideas of social structure presented in "Walden Two". Further, Aldus Huxley, author of "Brave New World", was so impressed with the ideas presented in "Walden Two", that he incorporated and expanded on them in his last novel, "Island". And many people feel this was his best work. I concur.

The book is not a monument to fine novel writing and was not intended to be, yet it is fascinating and eye-opening as a fictional dissertation on utopian social structure can be. Huxley's "Island", on the other hand was beautifully written and requires no awareness of the psychology of social construction going on at the same time- neither book does, really. They are both interesting and thought provoking.

Skinner's basic premise was that with gentle behavioral modifications using positive re-enforcement and academics, coupled with leveling the social playing field with no class structure our hyper-competitive, private enterprise, we could then concentrate all of our energies on education and entertainment, thereby removing most all of the ills and stress that conventional society suffers from- sounds enticing, on paper anyway.

B.F. Skinner was a famous research psychologist who had a life-time of noted insights into the human psyche and his constant experimentation with behavioral studies led him to map-out, in a fictional utopian setting, a demonstration of what the supposed benefits of behavioral modification would do for a large group of people.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on June 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Walden Two" is a bizarre utopian novel by the notorious behaviourist B.F. Skinner. The novel (first published in 1948) is quite seriously intended, but nevertheless comes across as an unintentional parody of social engineering. Had it been a work of considerable antiquity, I'm sure Leo Strauss and Alan Bloom would have assumed that it *is* a parody!

As classical utopian novels, "Walden Two" has no real plot. Most of the "novel" is a description of an imaginary utopian community, named Walden Two after the forest where Thoreau wrote his famous work "Walden". The similarity between Thoreau and Skinner isn't very striking, however. Walden Two may be surrounded by farmland, but it's really a large public housing complex with about 1,000 inhabitants, and obviously based on high technology. It has plans to expand and eventually take over all of the United States. Thoreau, as far as I know, mostly wanted to be left alone!

The main character of the story is Frazier, the founder of Walden Two, who guides six visitors (and the reader) through the community and explains its ideology. Another character is named Burris. Apparently this is supposed to be B.F. Skinner himself, although Frazier is probably Skinner's real alter ego. Yet another character is an unsympathetic, useless and abstract philosophy professor named Castle, who is Frazier's main protagonist and constantly questions both him and the utopian society. The four remaining characters are named Roger, Barbara, Mary and Steve.

Walden Two turns out to be a benevolent dictatorship ruled by anonymous Planners and Managers. They are not elected but appoint their own successors. The law of the community is called the Code and can be changed only be the Planners and Managers.
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