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Conclusion the histories of the Walden Two communities cannot be used to “prove” anything. Just as the novel Walden Two is fiction and not, as Frazier argues at one point,an “accomplished fact” (56),none of the Walden Two communities were scientific experiments carried out under laboratory conditions, and it is difficult to see how an endeavor involving individuals coming together under specific historical circumstances for their own various reasons ever could be turned into a measurable and repeatable experiment . The Walden Two communities thus serve merely as examples of what can happen to groups trying to turn Walden Two into reality. Despite the impossibility of drawing any definite conclusions concerning Walden Two from the described experiments in living,however,the communities do shed new light on Skinner’s utopia. In an attempt to make his utopian vision palatable to an American audience , Skinner carefully paints a familiar and reassuring picture of his utopian community in Walden Two. In essence, his utopia is depicted as a pleasant summer resort reminiscent of nineteenth-century utopianism and communalism.Also, while proclaiming the individual as a free agent a myth that needs to be discarded, Skinner focuses in his novel not on portraying behaviorally engineered utopians but on the fiercely individualistic and rather eccentric founder of the fictional community, Frazier. It is only in his description of the fictional community’s educational system that Skinner talks at length about behavioral engineering and why society would benefit from using its techniques. In light of the literary techniques Skinner chose in presenting his utopian vision, it becomes more readily apparent why Walden Two held considerable 05.conc.163-170_Kuhl.indd 163 3/29/05 4:03:04 PM 164 . conclusion interest not only for readers coming from a behaviorist background but also for readers who were not knowledgeable about Skinner’s field of study.While Walden Two can be read as a blueprint for a behaviorist utopia, it can equally be read as the story of a group of people in present-day America deciding to go their own separate ways in their search for the good life, being inspired in this search by their own country’s tradition of utopian dreaming. Equally , while Skinner’s critics overwhelmingly tried to identify with the bulk of “ordinary” people finding happiness and mindlessness in Skinner’s utopia, and therefore strongly objected,those readers who went on to found Walden Two communities by and large identified with Frazier. They did not long to be absolved from making decisions but rather felt that they, as well-intentioned and intelligent people, should be decision makers. All of them, it seems,wanted to be gentle guides,but none were willing to be guided gently. What captured their imagination was the one character in the novel who was not a product of Walden Two, its individualistic founder. In the ensuing struggle for power, the notion that any one of the participants of the various experiments in communal living would be accepted by the others as a psychologist -king was rapidly dropped. Although this development is not evident in all the groups, it is a strong recurrent theme. In the wake of dropping the notion of psychologist-kings, most of these pioneering intentional communities reassessed their reading of Walden Two. In some cases, the fight over the Frazier position virtually ended the Walden Two experiment, as was the case at Walden Three and, to some extent, at Lake Village. Other groups, like Twin Oaks and, as far as it can be included as an intentional community at all, Sunflower House, adopted more democratic methods. Despite the different approaches to building Walden Two, the reactions to actually trying the planner-manager system were remarkably similar among the behaviorist groups and Twin Oaks. The majority of the people involved in Lake Village, Walden Three, and Sunflower House came from a behaviorist background, which likely colored their reading of Walden Two. For these readers, who were involved in token economies in clearly defined settings with dependent populations, like Roger Ulrich’s preschool, the benevolent paternalism of Walden Two was a familiar feature of their own professional lives.Rather than paying attention to the specific features of the fictional community, these readers clearly understood the novel as a call to apply behavioral engineering to the design of society and as a call to assume the position of designers. Quite in keeping with Skinner’s educational ideas in...

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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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