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22 . b. f. skinner’s walden two ingly by Alan Elms (470–79). The fictional Frazier allowed Skinner to say things that he himself was not ready to say, while the narrator, Burris (Skinner ’s first name is Burrhus), represents Skinner’s hesitance to let go of traditional values. Walden Two was, Skinner maintains, “a kind of self-therapy as the Burris side of me struggled to accept the Frazier side” (Matter 180). Frazier may be an engaging character precisely because of his contradictory emotions, yet he is also the character who enraged readers more than any other in Walden Two. Although Frazier stresses repeatedly that the community is completely functional without him, his role in Walden Two is ambivalent enough to give readers the impression that he is crucial to its survival.While described as a social outcast most of the time, Frazier reveals himself as feeling almost godlike in “his heaven” (301). Frazier does not view his fellow communards as his equals. To Burris, he remarks that they “‘are my children . . . I love them’” (282). It is hardly possible to express paternalism more clearly. 2 Behavioral Psychology and the Design of Society skinner defended the social thinking that is at the root of Walden Two in numerous nonfictional writings. While I do not wish to equate Skinner’s fictional with his nonfictional writings, I do think that a reading of Walden Two gains in depth when looking at Skinner’s later writings. The following discussion of Skinnerian behaviorism as expressed outside of his utopian novel will provide the context for the reception of Walden Two, which will be examined in the next chapter. Walden Two was his first explicit attempt at thinking through what his laboratory findings and experiments with animals might imply for the design of human society. By choosing the form of fiction, Skinner could let his protagonist Frazier “say things that I myself was not ready to say” (Shaping 297–98).Skinner remarks in the last volume of his autobiography that he “progressed mainly by becoming a convinced Frazierian” (Matter 206). In Walden Two, Skinner was still very much concerned with presenting his views in a way that would be 01.1-40_Kuhl.indd 22 3/29/05 4:00:29 PM acceptable to an American audience. In his later writings, this was not a concern anymore. Skinner’s only published novel is, in several ways, more conciliatory in tone than his later, nonfictional writings.6 Science and Human Behavior, published in 1953, is a nonfictional version of the ideas expressed in Walden Two.7 The book has a large middle section dealing in technical language with scientific experiments that Skinner had carried out with laboratory animals,thus attempting to give academic weight to his far-reaching conclusions concerning human behavior. Over the years, Skinner wrote several articles that are all variations of his basic theme: that society would benefit from placing the design of culture in the hands of those most suited for the task, behavioral engineers.8 None of his writings are as bold and outspoken as Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), a highly controversial book written in a popular style and intended for the general public. In fact, Skinner explicitly comments on his frequent use of the words “control” and “controller” in Beyond Freedom and Dignity—words he knew would incense his critics—by stating that “[n]othing is to be gained by using a softer word” (172). Why this change of tone? Because,according to Skinner,nothing less than the survival of western society is at stake. Rather than asking what society can or ought to do for its citizens, he is concerned with how individuals can be induced to “behav[e] for the good of others” (Beyond 105). As Ernest Callenbach, a fellow utopian thinker mainly concerned with environmental issues (Ecotopia), observed in an interview: “It’s true, however, that both Skinner and myself have recognized—which is not altogether easy in the hyper-individualism of American thought—that the primary issue has become survival, and that this is a species or social matter, not one of personal freedom or happiness. But granting priority to biological/social survival goes against the grain of the Protestant ethic,where it is the relationship between an individual and an extraterrestrial God that counts most” (393). In placing survival first,the individual and his or her rights become secondary . Skinner is explicitly concerned with the welfare of the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780252091650
Related ISBN
9780252029622
MARC Record
OCLC
811409117
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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