GSE Publications

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version



One of constructionism's chief pragmatic goals is to facilitate relationships that have transformative potential. According to Kenneth Gergen, one important theoretical tool towards that end is relational theory, the construing of human behavior in terms of dialogic processes. We trace the meaning of 'dialogic' and 'transformative' through different constructionist traditions and argue that these terms are used in a relatively narrow sense, as compared to an alternative approach we are suggesting. Moreover, we propose that the usual narrow construal of these concepts has the unintended consequence of undermining the central constructionist goal of facilitating transformative relationships. We present an empirical example that illustrates (1) how people's conception of their self as a collection of social scripts draws their attention to and reinforces the accretion of scripts; (2) how this accretion can get in the way of transformation; and (3) how a broader conception of a 'dialogic' self can open up more direct, transformative relational possibilities.


The final, definitive version of this article has been published in Theory and Psychology, Volume 12, Issue 5, October 2002, pages 625-650. by SAGE Publications, Inc. on SAGE Journals Online:


dialogic self-construction, identity, phenomenology, self and social context, social constructionism



Date Posted: 01 May 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.