Moreno’s promise to humanity — in jeopardy

“Who Shall Survive?” begins with a universal statement about humanity.


That’s the heading and it makes quite a statement! It is followed by the classic opening line about mankind:

“A truly therapeutic procedure cannot have less an objective than the whole of humankind.”

So the vision is set. Paradoxically psychodrama  overwhelmingly has small systems as their objective. Of course the ripples from these groups reach a long way. However Moreno did not say: “A truly therapeutic procedure cannot have less an objective than a trickle down effect on humankind.” (Maybe he did in places?) He has a large vision, and one it is hard to disagree with: “we all want to change the world”.

He goes on to say:

“But no adequate therapy can be prescribed as long as humankind is not a unity in some fashion and as long as its organization remains unknown. It helped us in the beginning to think, although we had no definite proof for it, that humankind is a social and organic unity.”

This is not a bad starting point for a social investigator: let’s not make assumptions about the social structures! Let’s simply investigate.

Yet this is an ahistorical approach. Consider this analogy. A biological scientist comes to the animal world and says: we’ll just notice what we see and go from there. The scientists begin with the plants and insects in front of them. In a way such immediacy and ‘here and now’ approach is refreshing. It could go deeply into the ecology of a patch of life. But what about the wonderful insight from someone in the 19th century that species evolve, that there is an origin of the species. That could certainly enhance the work, even in the small patch of life. That notion of evolution is a particular sort of scientific discovery. It it sprang out of the work of naturalists by looking at many species. It is the ability to transcend the cultural conserve of creationism and develop an abstraction from it, one that has enormous explanatory power.

Returning to the opening statements about humankind in Who Shall Survive? :

Something must have happened which drew individuals more and more apart than they were before — the source of differentiation may have been one time a new climate, another time the crossing of different racial groups…”

Who Shall Survive?” P4

Moreno explicitly rejects Karl Marx’s insight about class in many places in his writing.

“All history is the history of class struggle.”

Marx & Engels — Communist Manifesto

That is the sociological equivalent of a botanist rejecting the origin of the species.  Moreno is the equivalent of a creationist in rejecting Marx’s discovery and insight.

I’m so sad Moreno is stuck in such an outdated conserve.  The political movements that do grasp the historical nature of class struggle could benefit from the revolutionary small group psychodramatic processes.

What would  class conscious sociodrama look like?  Has it evolved anywhere in the world?

Sadly I have only found th opposite, more individual based therapy linking psychodrama and Freud

* Of course he said MANKIND but I don’t want this post to be littered with this anachronism, so I change it even in direct quotes.


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