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Walden Two

B.F. Skinner

Chapter 8-9

Chapters 6-7

Chapters 10-13

Summary

Chapter 8

The group then moves to a lounge with a view of the outdoors. Burris thanks Frazier for the tour and apologizes for the imposition, but Frazier replies that he is getting several "labor credits" for his time. In Walden Two, no one is paid, and all services and goods are free. However, each person is required to do a certain amount of work, for which they receive labor credits. About four labor credits are required per day, which translates to anywhere from two to six hours of work depending on the number of credits that are awarded per hour for a given job. Unpleasant jobs, like cleaning sewers, are given higher credit values than easy ones. Members are free to choose their jobs each day, except those that require special training, like medicine. The only jobs that don't work according to this system are those of the Planners and Managers. The six Planners of Walden Two are in charge of the community's policy as a whole. The Managers are in charge of specific areas like Food, Health, Labor, Education, Arts, etc. Neither the Planners nor the Managers are elected; previous Planners choose new Planners from candidates proposed by the Managers, and new Managers work their way up through the ranks. No distinctions of rank are made except between Planners, Managers, workers, and scientists. Planners are required to do at least a credit's worth of physical labor each day.

Castle demands to know how the community can survive on four hours of work a day or less. Frazier replies that a great deal of time is wasted in the outside world: the second half of an eight-hour day is less productive than the first; people work less well when they are working for a boss than when they are working for themselves; many people who could work are unemployed; and many of the people who are working are doing so in capacities that aren't needed at Walden Two, such as banking, advertising, etc. Furthermore, women can do work that helps the community since their domestic duties are reduced or nonexistent. The members of Walden Two also consume less than members of the outside world. Castle agrees that Frazier has made his point. Frazier then surprises the group by telling them that, as guests, they are expected to contribute two labor credits for each day of their visit. Frazier notes in conclusion that half of any money made by a guest through outside jobs, and all money made by members, is claimed by the community. The group retires to their quarters for the evening.

Chapter 9

The next morning, Burris and Mary get up early and have breakfast together. Burris is happy to be getting to know Mary, an attractive young woman, a little better. Mary hints that Barbara and Rodge have not been getting along well recently, and Burris guesses that it has something to do with Walden Two. Steve and Rodge, who have been walking outside, and Barbara and Castle, who have just woken up, soon join them for breakfast. After breakfast, they report to the Work Desk, where they choose to wash the windows of the main building, a 1.2 credit per hour job that should take them several days if they work for two hours each day. They work for the duration of the morning, Rodge and Steve removing the windows, Castle and Burris giving them a rough cleaning, and Barbara and Mary giving them a final polish.

Commentary

Chapter 8 introduces the economics of Walden Two. All goods and services are free, but everyone is required to work a certain amount. Although it might seem that cash has simply been exchanged for credit, the difference actually runs much deeper. In a cash-based system, each individual is free to accumulate whatever goods he desires and to make transactions with other individuals. In Walden Two, neither is a possibility. The same goods and services are made available to everyone and credits may not be exchanged between individuals. The consequence of this system is that the economy is fundamentally communal. Along with other social changes, this communal economy is fundamental to the workings of Walden Two.

In Chapter 9 a strange sort of sexual tension develops between Mary and Burris--or at least from Burris toward Mary. This helps humanize Burris a little, and it also makes the point that Burris has very little connecting him to the outside world: no wife or significant other of any kind, no children, parents or other family, as far as we are told.

The division of labor for the window-cleaning job sets up a kind of hierarchy among the visitors: Rodge and Steve are given the heaviest labor, Castle and Burris are given a significantly milder task, and Barbara and Mary are given the lightest labor of all. As in other sections of the novel, the division of labor in this chapter undercuts the supposed equality of the sexes in Walden Two. The institutions of Walden Two are not biased with respect to gender; anyone can perform any job as long as they have the required expertise. But the people of Walden Two continue to segregate themselves on the basis of traditional gender roles. We will see women as managers of clothing and workers in weaving, baking, and childcare, and men as farmers, doctors and workers in the machine shop. Despite Frazier's talk of equality in these very jobs, we never see concrete examples of people working in non-traditional roles.

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May not be important, but...

by Funky-Train, September 03, 2013

On your character summary, you wrote that Barbara Macklin is Rodgers' girlfriend, but they're officially engaged. I think this is a significant detail, because Steve introduces his girlfriend, Mary Grove, informally as "my girl." This shows an immaturity in Steve, whereas Barbara and Rodgers view their relationship seriously.

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