Utopian Society Thinkers B. F. Skinner Part 2

About the famous utopian thinker and scientist B. F. Skinner and history of his planned utopia Walden Two.


B. F. SKINNER (1904- )

Despite acknowledging that his controversial theories discourage personal freedom, if not doing away with it altogether, Skinner feels that his methods of behavior modification are the only viable means to insure a stable and productive human future.

His Utopia: WALDEN TWO

The utopia described in Skinner's 1948 book, Walden Two, is a fictional community based on the principles of a totally engineered life-style, from material goods to human behavior. Instead of reverting back to the old ways of doing things as most communes had done, the Walden Two approach was to forge ahead, using science to make life both better and easier.

The men and women who live at Walden Two are all of equal status. The community is run by designated Managers and Planners. Everything is shared, and work is rewarded with labor credits in place of money. Constructive behavior is positively reinforced. The residents of totally self-sufficient Walden Two are manipulated by behavioral engineering techniques into acting for the good of the community (though they are all happy and don't ever feel manipulated).

At Walden Two early marriage and childbearing are encouraged. Babies are brought up in air cribs and, while still belonging to their parents, are cared for by the entire community. The children are spared anxious or traumatic experiences until they are sufficiently developed; then they are gradually educated to the accepted standards of conduct. Art, music, and literature are considered necessary and natural outlets, and people at Walden Two have considerable leisure time in which to pursue individual interests.

In the late 1960s, Twin Oaks, a commune based on Walden Two was founded in Virginia. Though B. F. Skinner personally had no part in its formation or management, the commune attempted to institute practical applications of his theories. Struggling financially, however, Twin Oaks was not able to duplicate Walden Two's expensive technical and technological aspects, and it experienced a high turnover rate of residents.

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