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Walden Two

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  6,176 ratings  ·  476 reviews
This fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy since its publication in 1948. Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 15th 2005 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (first published 1948)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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 ·  6,176 ratings  ·  476 reviews

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Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have to say that I find it funny how often the user reviews call Walden Two "boring." I get as bored reading a philosophical treatise as the next person, but Walden Two is actually easy and engaging to read. It's even funny in the little ways the narrator mocks the hero Fraser as well as the daft intellectual Castle. Skinner has this great way of describing when conversation is awkward, or when people misunderstand each other in little ways, or when a person's ego is showing. I mean, ok, it's ...more
Walden Two contains no plot, clumsy writing, and characters that serve as nothing more than mouthpieces for B.F. Skinner, our author. That being said, if you want an intellectual exploration of a Utopian world ruled by behaviorism, this book may be for you. Skinner proposes many thought-provoking questions in Walden Two: what if we strove to eliminate class differences so that everyone could work in equal measure? What if we used positive reinforcement to reward people for their good behaviors i ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, behaviorism
This book has two target audiences, really, and the quality varies strongly depending on where you fall.

As a fiction reader, this book falls short in so many, many ways. Characters are merely loudspeakers for the author, going so far as to be named after him. Most characters, while having distinct viewpoints and personalities, are one-dimensional. There is no discernible plot whatsoever. And I mean none. The plot is the same as a virtual tour on an apartment website. As this is a novel of a utop
Sep 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
'My main problem is that it's just one big argument.' Jim said as we crested the hill. 'The characters just go back and forth debating the merits of Walden Two's behaviorist society. So while there are basic story elements; characters, setting and so forth, it's not much of a novel.'

'Would you rather Skinner wrote an essay; An Outline for Utopia, or something like that?' Kara replied as she joined us on top of the hill. 'Would that have been more amusing or persuasive?'

'Oh, no no.' Jim said an
Morgan Blackledge
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book. Not a great novel. But rather a highly thought provoking Socratic dialogue with an agenda to introduce the reader to evidence based, experimentally derived public policy creation and the behavioral engineering world view.

It’s important to remember, the book was first published in 1948. So yes, much of it is dated. But it’s brash, atheistic, rational, highly pragmatic, dialectical approach would be ahead of its time if it were written in 2019.

Skinner is perhaps the most misunderstood
Erik Graff
Sep 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Alan Jones
Shelves: literature
I don't much like B.F. Skinner's radical behaviorism, but I enjoyed his novel, Walden Two, assigned by Professor Alan Jones for his seminar, "Utopia and Society", at Grinnell College. My appreciation may have been exaggerated by having just read More's Utopia and Zamyatin's We, neither of which were easy reading, More because of my ignorance of his times, Zamyatin because of the turgidity of the translation. Compared to them, Skinner was a breeze, his book a pleasure.

Behaviorism began in Germany
Apr 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People without attention disorders.
Recommended to Avery by: Eric Neibauer
Shelves: half-read
Walden Two by B.F. Skinner is one of those books that you, at the same time, love and hate. Personally, I thought that the idea was a ridiculously interesting concept in and of itself, and Skinner made a valiant attempt to implement it in a fictional novel, but ended up with a pile of literary shit powdered with intellectual diamond dust. I’m sure that both parts of my analogy can easily be explained; Skinner is a Psychologist and not a creative writer. I have to say, I think I liked the book bu ...more
One time, I threw this book out a window. That should probably tell you how much I detest it. It was required reading for a class, and I fully acknowledge that this "review" is basically just venting the resentment and bafflement that still lingers.

Part of my ire is that Walden Two is presented as a novel (albeit blandly written with no care for depth of characters, emotions, or plot), and man, do I as a reader detest poorly-written fiction that's ultimately trying to argue something. (Well-writ
2.0 to 2.5 stars. Better as a review of Skinner's scientific theories than as an actual novel, this "utopian" novel deals with an experimental community based on solving problems via application of the scientific method. It has been a while since I read this and I may re-read this at some point to see if my opinion has changed. ...more
Thomas Strömquist
DNF @ 25 %

A horrible experience. I started out wondering why the professor (not going back to look up his name) was so hostile and testy towards Frazier, the architect behind the meant-to-be utopia, Walden Two. Some pages later, I wanted to punch him in the face myself. You realise pretty early on that this is not a novel at all, but merely a framework for an odd philosophy, delivered as dialogue, and in the most patronising and self-righteous way. When I started having more than one objection,
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Though I usually wait a few days before reviewing a book to properly let it steep in my murky mind, I could not wait to get my hands inky with Walden Two.

B.F. Skinner, a figure somewhat reminiscent of the incredibly talented and wonderfully intelligent Aldous Huxley, was a pioneer of Behaviourism: the position that all human behaviour is shaped and defined by a certain set of sociopolitical, economic, cultural and genetic factors. We could consider the science of behaviour the final blow to the
Nov 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
My psychology professor informed us that Skinner at first intended to be a writer. I think the world is blessed in many ways that he changed his mind. My review of the novel (one star) is due to judging it as a work of literature, which is how he wrote it. It sucks. What he should have done was put forth a pamphlet of about 30 pages called "The Walden Two Manifesto" and described the construction, regulation, behavioral principals, etc, that make up the community. Lots of very interesting, progr ...more
Jan Priddy
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"We are only just beginning to understand the power of love because we are just beginning to understand the weakness of force and aggression."

B.F. Skinner asks if you knew how to manipulate people into living in an ideal society, wouldn't you do it? We are all products of our experiences and responses to societal conditioning. Wouldn't it be best if we deliberately created a society that conditioned us to live harmoniously and happily?

If readers are looking for a conventional novel, there is a
Sep 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: my-college-years
I remember liking this book in college and had to read it for a class I took. After reading it we had to write a term paper on what we considered a utopian society. Back in the early 70s I was interested in communes, but I doubt if any lasted due to problems within the commune. All I remember about this book is that the people changed their jobs from one day to the next so they wouldn't become bored. ...more
May 29, 2017 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
boring, sexist and dated
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: utopians, role playing game fans
When I think of stories about utopian societies -- Brave New World, 1984, The Time Machine, and Gattaca for example -- I really think of a genre that sends up a dystopia as a means of satire. It's like a subgenre of mystery, with a well-worn formula. The protagonist introduces us to an 'ideal' world whose darker implications are only later revealed (the mystery lies in the discovery of what these implications really are). In the end, the protagonist has either escaped, been co-opted or killed, o ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I don't really remember too much of this book. I remember that I liked it ok, but not anywhere near as much as I liked Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'.

I was given both of these books to read by my older sister. Two opposing philosophies, so to speak.
Aug 13, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-reread
Walden Two was assigned to me by a professor who apparently thought Skinner's extremely half-baked notions of what would be a great society to live in had some value to us. I guess they did, because I had a great time writing as furiously sarcastic a review as I could (which I unfortunately can't find), but throughout the book I was astonished that a guy who clearly must have some brains, and who had devoted his life to the study of how people behave, could be so clueless about how they actually ...more
Nov 07, 2020 rated it did not like it
Brave New World, except low-key and it's presented as a good thing. That would be the short version.

The long version: There's no literary merit to this work. I would guess that a full eighty percent of the book are various dialogues about the superiority of the eponymous community. In the typical scene, some feature of Walden Two is introduced, some character raises objections to it, and then another character corrects him. The writing reminded me very much of Time Will Run Back, which was more
Dan Raghinaru
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was ok
When your utopia based on behavior science is a dystopia for the rest. Probably Skinner hopped that fictionalizing and humanizing his radical behaviorist project may be easier to swallow; hence this book. I found it interesting that these days most of the AI books start with a similar utopia in the first chapter; again, to make their ubiquitous, totalitarian, manipulative, technological, anti-humanist, and so on project more acceptable.
Nov 10, 2020 is currently reading it
Hey, Skinner, what if we, like, enjoy our dumb emotions, contradictory thoughts and self-induced suffering?

Gimme that sweet sweet 4 hour work day, but leave me my stupidity, thnx.
Bogdan Balostin
Re-read: I find the ideas more fascinating this time around, and I can bear the dry prose and annoying characters better. Unfortunately, I can see the flaws of the ideas for the first generation building Walden Two. It's indeed possible and we should strive to change the evil human nature towards "good behavior" but we will never accomplish it with 100% efficiency.

In another book, Life 3.0 I first encountered the idea that simple animals are Life 1.0 which means they change very slowly only thro
Nathan Titus
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
an appalling vision of a utopia. Unlike most utopia visions, however, this one is completely honest. It's not about making a "perfect society;" it's about controlling the members. The perfect society is both an effect of that cause and a a tactic towards that goal. Create a society in which everyone is happy, and people will behave for the good of that society. their behavior will be engineered from day 1. and by day 1 I mean since birth; infants are cared for by the community, and their physica ...more
Mar 06, 2013 added it
Shelves: bf-skinner
As a certified behavior analyst, I was excited to discover that Skinner wrote one book of fiction. I picked it up at my local library book sale and found multiple copies. I ended up buying the one that had the name inside the jacket of the woman who bought from us the last house I lived in--weird!

The society uses behavioral principles to teach people to not have jealousy, to have self control to delay gratification and accept slightly annoying circumstances. The goals is "escape from the petty e
Procrastinating Slytherin
It is a curse I know firsthand –to be a lover of the arts and manage to only awkwardly produce it.

Though my personal –shall we say, preference, if not love for behavioral analysis and all the things it represents as the natural study of human behavior will no doubt render this review prejudiced, in terms of prose, if not lacking in lyricism and skill, it is to say the least indifferent. There is little diversity among the protagonists –male and female- and the “plot” is not lead either by its ch
Melissa Robinson
Feb 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: simplicity
Walden Two earns four stars not for its literary value (it's not terribly well written or compelling only as a story), but for the thought provoking social science concepts it raises. Intellectual stimulation earns it a place on my great books list.

The concept of behavioral engineering is both repulsive and intriguing to me. The line between behavioral engineering and brainwashing is just too fine. I have enough Professor Castle in me to balk at the ideas that freedom is nonexistent and democrac
Sam Nordli
Nov 16, 2007 rated it liked it
A fictional outline of Skinner's ideal utopian society. The characters are all very flat, and it is obvious that Skinner is using the story only as a vehicle to present his theories of social reform. Nonetheless, those ideas in themselves were interesting enough to hold my attention despite the mediocre writing. It is considered controversial because it espouses 'behavioral engineering' in a non-democratic societal arrangement. However, Skinner's arguments and examples are convincing and thought ...more
Feb 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
As a novel, this is not a wonderfully written book. But as a fictional expansion on B. F. Skinner's idea of a utopian society, it is extremely interesting and extremely important. Skinner lays out his idea of a world in which all behavior is guided by clearly stated reinforcement.

Skinner makes the point in his writings, that we are all completely controlled by our world of reinforcement and punishment, but that we like to imagine that we have free will. This books lays out that thinking in a no
Mar 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. I was completely seduced by the idea of behavioral engineering and I was ready to move into Walden Two after finishing it! The discussion of free will at the end was fun. I learned lots afterwards reading critiques of skinner's ideas by chomsky and others.

While I doubt the ideas would work in practice, the way of life presented in this story is what techonology SHOULD be used for: giving us more free time to pursue the things we want!
Aug 27, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
B. F. Skinner? More like B.F. Skin me alive because this thinly veiled "novel" is a rambling waste of time. By the end I decided I would have rather read anthem by ayn Rand six times over instead, and that is by no means a compliment. ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Future of the Science of Behavior at Walden Two 1 21 Oct 26, 2009 01:14PM  
Walden Two and the Outside World, Freedom vs Determinism 1 30 Oct 26, 2009 01:13PM  
Politics in Walden Two 1 14 Oct 26, 2009 01:12PM  
The Good Life at Walden Two 1 7 Oct 26, 2009 01:11PM  
Marriage and Child-Bearing at Walden Two 1 12 Oct 26, 2009 01:10PM  
Behavioral Engineering of Emotions at Walden Two 1 7 Oct 26, 2009 01:09PM  
The Nursery at Walden Two 1 3 Oct 26, 2009 01:07PM  

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Burrhus Frederic Skinner was a highly influential American psychologist, author, inventor, advocate for social reform and poet. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974. He invented the operant conditioning chamber, innovated his own philosophy of science called Radical Behaviorism, and founded his own school of experimental resea ...more

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