Walden Two | Study Guide

B. F. Skinner

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Walden Two | Chapter 29 | Summary



Frazier, Burris, and Castle meet in Frazier's room after the weather changes the group's plans. The ensuing heated conversation between Castle and Frazier centers on the governmental aspects of the community and Castle's allegations of Frazier being a despot. Castle accuses Frazier of "diabolical machinations" and of leading the community like Machiavelli. He is convinced Frazier's Walden Two rests on an antidemocratic foundation that deprives its members of personal liberty. Frazier counters this by stating the community's citizens are actually quite free and the science of behaviorism has shown people can be controlled. He adds the goal is to control with the purpose of uplifting all people, not just a certain ideology or government.


This chapter goes deeper and more forcefully into concerns already voiced in previous chapters. The method Frazier describes for behavioral control is the "operant behaviorism" Skinner practiced. It emphasizes positive reinforcement because negative reinforcement has no lasting positive effect. Surprisingly, Frazier admits to being a despot, as Castle has suggested, but he says he practices a "limited sort of despotism." Frazier says this is necessary when a leader knows what is best for others and asks Castle what better way there could be to preclude "malevolent despotism." Castle retorts only a truly democratic system can assure that. Frazier's outlook explains why he could assess the Walden Two citizens as free even though they are subject to behavioral modification. They are free in the sense the sheep in the field are free. They have been "shaped" into behaving within certain accepted parameters or boundaries.

It is clear Walden Two must leave decision-making in the hands of a few "Planners," and, as Frazier says, the community must be essentially disinterested in politics.

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