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B. F. Skinner: A Life


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Inventive Beginnings; Between Two Lives; A Hill of Dreams; The Birth of a New Science; Behaviourist at Large; The Social Inventor Emerges; A Design for Living; Educational Engineering; Beyond the American Tradition; Master of Self-Management.


By Bjork's reckoning, the man who raised his infant daughter in a glass-encased, thermostatically controlled crib came to behaviorism not as a cold, unfeeling nihilist but as a sensitive, unhappy romantic who cared deeply about helping humanity. Raised in a small Pennsylvania town by a lawyer father whom he viewed with contempt and by a controlling, critical mother, Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990) evolved into an alienated, cynical intellectual increasingly appalled by the consumerism of mainstream culture. According to Bjork, Skinner was a doting father and a lover of music (especially Wagner), who saw behavioral technology as a means to reverse global destruction and to liberate the individual from a wasteful, competitive lifestyle. While Bjork's defense of Skinner's ideas is not likely to impress his detractors, this intimate biography does provide a striking portrait of an embattled social engineer. Bjork is a history professor at St. Mary's University in Texas. (Aug.)

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