Jacob Levy Moreno - biography
Jacob Levy Moreno (born Iacob Levy, Bucharest, Romania, May 18, 1889; died New York, USA, May 14, 1974) was a Jewish Romanian-born Austrian-American leading psychiatrist and psychosociologist, thinker and educator, the founder of psychodrama, and the foremost pioneer of group psychotherapy. During his lifetime, he was recognized as one of the leading social scientists.
Early life and education
Jacob Levy Moreno was born in Bucharest in the Kingdom of Romania. His father was Moreno Nissim Levy, a Sephardi Jewish merchant born in 1856 in Plevna in the Ottoman Empire (today Pleven, Bulgaria). Jacob's grandfather Buchis had moved to Plevna from Constantinople, where his ancestors had settled after they left Spain in 1492. It is thought that the Morenos left Plevna for Bucharest during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, following the Plevna rabbi Haim Bejarano in search of a more hospitable environment. Jacob Moreno's mother, Paulina Iancu or Wolf, was also a Sephardi Jew, born in 1873, and originated from Călăraşi, Romania.
In 1895, at time of great intellectual creativity and political turmoil, the family moved to Vienna. He studied medicine, mathematics, and philosophy at the University of Vienna, becoming a Doctor of Medicine in 1917. He had rejected Freudian theory while still a medical student, and became interested in the potential of group settings for therapeutic practice.
In his autobiography, Dr. Moreno recalls this encounter with Sigmund Freud in 1912. "I attended one of Freud’s lectures. He had just finished an analysis of a telepathic dream. As the students filed out, he singled me out from the crowd and asked me what I was doing. I responded, 'Well, Dr. Freud, I start where you leave off. You meet people in the artificial setting of your office. I meet them on the street and in their homes, in their natural surroundings. You analyze their dreams. I give them the courage to dream again. You analyze and tear them apart. I let them act out their conflicting roles and help them to put the parts back together again.'"
Moreno picked up where Freud left off, with his theory of interpersonal relations, and the development of his work in psychodrama, sociometry, group psychotherapy, sociodrama, and sociatry.
Moving to the U.S. in 1925, he began working in New York City. In his autobiography he states that, of all the places in the world "only in New York, the melting pot of the nations, the vast metropolis, with all its freedom from all preconceived notions, could I be free to pursue sociometric group research in the grand style I had envisioned".
He later held positions at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research.
In 1932, Dr. Moreno first introduced group psychotherapy to the American Psychiatric Association. For the next 40 years he developed and introduced his Theory of Interpersonal Relations and tools for social sciences he called 'sociodrama', 'psychodrama', 'sociometry', and 'sociatry'. In his monograph entitled, "The Future of Man's World", he describes how he developed these sciences to counteract "the economic materialism of Marx, the psychological materialism of Freud, and the technological materialism" of our modern industrial age.
His autobiography describes his position as "threefold: Spontaneity and creativity are the propelling forces in human progress, beyond and independent of libido and socioeconomic motives [that] are frequently interwoven with spontaneity-creativity, but [this proposition] does deny that spontaneity and creativity are merely a function and derivative of libido or socioeconomic motives. Love and mutual sharing are powerful, indispensable working principles in group life. Therefore, it is imperative that we have faith in our fellow man’s intentions, a faith which transcends mere obedience arising from physical or legalistic coercion. That a super dynamic community based on these principles can be brought to realization through new techniques..."
Moreno died in New York City in 1974, aged 84. He chose to die by abstaining from all food and water after a long illness. His epitaph, at his request, reads "the man who brought laughter to psychiatry."
Summary of contribution
There is evidence that the methods of J. L. Moreno have held up respectably over time.Subsequent research from the University of Vienna shows the enormous influence that Moreno's theory of the Encounter (Invitations to an Encounter, 1914) had on the development of Martin Buber's I-Thou philosophy, and Buber's influence on philosophy, theology, and psychology. His wife, Zerka Moreno, writes: "While it is true that Buber broadened the idea of the Encounter, he did not create the instruments for it to occur." Moreno "produced the various instruments we now use for facilitating the human encounter, sociometry, group psychotherapy, psychodrama, and sociodrama". Zerka is herself an expert in psychodrama and sociometry, and continues her late husband's work.
With training centers and institutes on nearly every continent, there are many thousands of students who are expanding and developing training and teaching the Morenean Arts & Sciences across the disciplines, to more fully realize Moreno's vision to make these social sciences available for "the whole of [hu]mankind."
Moreno is also widely credited as one of the founders of the discipline of social network analysis, the branch of sociology that deals with the quantitative evaluation of an individual's role in a group or community by analysis of the network of connections between them and others. His 1934 book Who Shall Survive? contains some of the earliest graphical depictions of social networks.
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