So, after immersing myself in such a fantastical world as 1Q84, I decided to go and read one of the classic psychological texts I’d been putting off. So I picked up B.F. Skinner‘s Beyond Freedom and Dignity. I’ve always loved reading his work, whether it’s part of his memoirs or other psychological tracts such as Walden 2 (which you should totally read, btws). This one was a rather more dry compilation of his views on the training of man and culture.
For those of you who don’t know what Skinner was all about, he basically felt that man could be trained to anything, using similar conditioning tricks that work on your dog. He’s totally right in some respects, a little far gone in others. Regardless, he has some very interesting ideas about the fallacy of trying to create a utopia that is larger than a small group (small enough that everyone knows everyone else) and trying to change and shape cultures deliberately to ensure that they continue on in the future.
And as usual, I found Skinner’s writing style to be open and accessible. He’s not one for obscure language or high-falutin’ terminology. He wanted his work to be understood by the lay person, so he did his best to ensure that anyone reading it would be able to understand and take away his central message about training ourselves to be stronger and better people.
If you have any interest in how humanity as a larger unit might be shaped by behavioral sciences, this would probably be worth a read.