Walden Two – the Psychology of “no Place”
Walden Two – the Psychology of “no Place”
The Psychology of “No Place”
In a post-World War Two era, there was much longing for improvement on current society. Burrhus F. Skinner decided to give his take on what he felt were the appropriate steps to take in order to make a true “Utopia.” There have been attempts at other utopia’s (which is from the Greek for “no place”) and Skinner in his book took the best elements of each utopia and put them into one. However, this does not mean that this utopia he creates in his story, called Walden Two, emulating Thoreau’s Walden Pond in Maine, is not without flaws. The most obvious flaws that stand out to the modern day reader are simply due to the fact that this book was published nearly 60 years ago. Values in the post-WWII era differed from modern ones, and psychology took a back seat during the war for other “real sciences.” This social commentary is extensively relevant to the study of psychology, especially conditioning/behaviorism, because all consequences of all the actions of people in Walden Two directly stem from some psychological event, be it the shaping of the children to want to learn, or the way the officials (planners/managers) are appointed (and not elected).
The interesting thing about this book is the way in which it is written. The main protagonist’s name is Burris, awfully close to the author and psychologist’s name Burrhus, and they share nearly identical lives and professions. I believe this book basically breaks down B.F. Skinner’s feelings about creating utopia’s into the characters. Burris would be closest to B.F. Skinner himself, with Skinner’s moderate point of view being exemplified in this character, his extremely in favor feeling exemplified in Frazier’s character, and his extremely against/skeptical feeling exemplified in Augustine Castle.
In order to understand why in fact “Walden Two” is a commentary on American society, we must juxtapose relevant topics in our lives compared to that of those in Walden Two to see if they are the antithesis of one another or if they coincide perfectly. One of the most outright aspects of America and Americans is our economic system. We operate on a capitalist society, and the ideal of socialism or communism (similar to that of Walden Two) is severely looked down upon. Capitalism breeds competition, and vice versa, and competition breeds extinction. In a capitalist society, everyone is trying to “get theirs” and leave everyone else in the dust. The emphasis of this economic system is on the individual and big business succeeding, with no mind paid to how society as a whole is functioning and thriving (or struggling).
One of the most augmented facets of Walden is its economic system. Much of the book shuns America’s competitive nature and how it is displayed in almost every aspect of life. This book does the opposite, showing how there is no need for competition, because it always leads to malicious events from feelings of jealously which they wish to be eliminated up to the grandiose event of war. The economy of Walden is based upon communal sharing. This socialistic ideal allows everyone to take what he or she needs without exact payment. Going back to agrarian roots, the people in Walden Two try to produce a surplus of food, and after a surplus is achieved, gold or money is not traded for, but equipment or supplies that Waldeans cannot produce. This allows for a greater standard of living, and is the opposite of our system. They achieve this labor not by getting paid but rather using a system of “labor credits” and “each person only needs to work a four hour day, rather than a six hour one, because the work is so efficient.” (Skinner, 76) Instead of people plotting against one another for monetary gain, the Waldeans work together for the greater good and in doing so they achieve not only equality and a constant food supply, but it allows them to receive tools they would not be able to make on their own. Frazier states in that “the secret to their economic success is that we avoid the goat and loom.” (Frazier, 75) By this, he means that in the past, most Utopias’ have been going back and getting rid of technology, whereas in Walden Two they “look ahead, not backwards, for a better version.” Waldeans avoid “uncreative and uninteresting work” and place people into jobs that they enjoy and are good at, and if a job change is needed due to lack of efficiency of a person, they will find he or she a job which is interesting to them and one which they excel at.
In America, along with many other countries in the world, school is attended by children because it is mandatory; it is forced upon them. The curiosity that is innate in them is often times sucked out by the time they reach high school. Students do not go to school for the reward of “learning.”