“Impromptu Man captures the remarkable impact of a singular genius, J.L. Moreno, whose creations—the best-known being psychodrama—have shaped our culture in myriad ways, many unrecognized. The record will be set straight for all time by this can’t-put-down biography, a tribute by Jonathan D. Moreno to his father’s masterly legacy.” —DANIEL GOLEMAN, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
J.L. Moreno (1889-1974), the father of psychodrama, was an early critic of Sigmund Freud, wrote landmark works of Viennese expressionism, founded an experimental theater where he discovered Peter Lorre, influenced Martin Buber, and became one of the most important psychiatrists and social scientists of his time.
A mystic, theater impresario and inventor in his youth, Moreno immigrated to America in 1926, where he trained famous actors, introduced group therapy, and was a forerunner of humanistic psychology. As a social reformer, he reorganized schools and prisons, and designed New Deal planned communities for workers and farmers. Moreno’s methods have been adopted by improvisational theater groups, military organizations, educators, business leaders, and trial lawyers. His studies of social networks laid the groundwork for social media like Twitter and Facebook.
Featuring interviews with Clay Shirky, Gloria Steinem, and Werner Erhard, among others, original documentary research, and the author’s own perspective growing up as the son of an innovative genius, Impromptu Man is both the study of a great and largely unsung figure of the last century and an epic history, taking readers from the creative chaos of early twentieth-century Vienna to the wired world of Silicon Valley.
Jonathan D. Moreno, called the “most interesting bioethicist of our time” by the American Journal of Bioethics, is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
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 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 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.