Impromptu Man: J.L. Moreno and the Origins of Psychodrama, Encounter Culture, and the Social Network

Jonathan D. Moreno. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $18.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-934-137-84-0
Moreno (Mind Wars) seeks to elucidate his father’s intellectual contributions to ideas, movements, and practices of the 20th century and today; for, in the words of psychologist Karl Scheibe, “while [J.L. Moreno’s] influence has been mighty, his name has receded into the shadows.” Part biography and part cultural history, this well researched book begins with J.L. Moreno’s Viennese background and the beginnings of his important work, including the development of the concepts of “psychodrama,” the now-familiar combination of therapy and theater, and “sociometry,” the study of social relationships and a precursor to contemporary social-network analysis. Between the Encounter movement of the 1960s, military morale, humanistic psychology, Second City improv, and psychodrama training for trial lawyers, J.L.’s influence appears across domains and “it’s hard to exaggerate the extent to which [his] pioneering ideas have penetrated the culture” since. The book’s first half is heavier on biography and feels dense despite conveying the eccentric and charming nature of its central subject. The narrative is at its best in the latter chapters, which survey the reach of his influence and provide a sort of sociometry of J.L.’s brilliant and creative ideas. 16 illus. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/28/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
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