Studies in a Literary Genre
CHAPTER 7 Anti-Anti-Utopia: Walden Two and Island
Against the optimistic utopias of the nineteenth century, Erewhon stands eccentric and interesting, modern in its alienation, its rejection of the dominant mystique of the age. “Do not machines eat as it were by man- nery?” Today, almost overwhelmed in the f lood of black visions of the future, two positive utopias, alienated from alienation, ask questions of our time as urgent as those of Butler. B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two (1948) and Aldous Huxley’s Island (1962) are daring ventures, full against the dominant imagination of the twentieth century. Perhaps only one as contemptuous of history as Skinner or one as desperately conscious of history as Huxley could have made the plunge. In any event, Walden Two and Island are our utopias, the two post-modern visions of the good place that speak most cogently against despair. Inevitably, Dostoevski’s Grand Inquisitor hovers over both. Skinner, an eminent behavioral psychologist turned writer of fiction, deliberately evokes the Grand Inquisitor topos by his delineation of T.E. Frazier, also a behavioral psychologist, the guiding genius of the fictional community called Walden Two. The community has the traditional uto- pian aim: the happiness of its members, the achievement of the Good Life. Unembarrassed by philosophical complexities, Frazier has no doubts about what the good life consists of: health, a minimum of unpleasant labor, the chance to exercise talents and abilities, full opportunity to develop inti- mate and satisfying personal relationships, plenty of relaxation and rest. To this unquestionably attractive goal Frazier adds another constituent: freedom from...
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