On the Social Legacy of B.F. Skinner: Rhetoric of Change, Philosophy of Adjustment

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The legacy of B.F. Skinner for social improvement is examined. A significant discrepancy is noticed between the rhetoric of change contained in his writings and the underlying philosophy of adjustment to the social order. Promises to modify the environment to advance human welfare were reverted into practices of changing individuals to promote the effective functioning of the social system. A critique of Skinner's theory of values reveals that it is unable to provide a conceptual framework for the ‘good’ society. It is argued that even though radical behaviorism is frequently used to maintain undesirable social institutions, it could be employed to foster beneficial macrosocial changes. This contrast is analyzed in terms of (a) a discrepancy between theory and practice; (b) a preoccupation with technology over ethical decision-making; and (c) a neglect of power issues in institutional and societal settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-137
Number of pages13
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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