Check Your Humanity at the Gate of Walden Two

Walden Two
by B.F. Skinner
Hackett Publishing, 2005 (1st ed. 1948)
320 pages, paperback, $10.95

Inspired by a long tradition of utopian narratives, in Walden Two sociologist B. F. Skinner used the tale of a model community to explore how his dream of a science of “behavioral engineering” might be applied to form a more peaceful and harmonious society. As in Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis, which I also review in this issue, the scientific element in Walden Two is science fiction. Such a science does not actually exist in the form in which it is depicted, at least not when the book was written. Nevertheless, within his story Skinner maintains more of a pretense of the actual existence of a behavioralist community, going so far as to have his characters discuss how “Walden Two” is not a “utopia” because unlike the imaginary republics of More, Plato, and Bacon, it actually exists. This is not only, as I will show, a bad book, but is a badly-written book. Sometimes this aspect makes it more entertaining than the author intended. Continue reading Check Your Humanity at the Gate of Walden Two