Making sense of relational processes and other psychological Phenomena: The participatory perspective as a post-cartesian alternative to gergen's relational approach

Michael A. Westerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Gergen's (2009, 2011a, 2011b) relational approach and the participatory perspective (Westerman, 2005, 2006, 2014; Westerman & Steen, 2007) both subscribe to the view that we need to depart from treating the individual as the bounded, separate agent of the Cartesian framework. However, whereas Gergen's position moves away from individualistic accounts by holding that all psychological processes originate in relational processes in the dyad, the participatory perspective accomplishes this shift by viewing the person from the outset as a participant in the world of practical activities. In this article, I discuss implications that follow from this difference in starting points, including a number of ways in which the participatory perspective avoids problematic features of Gergen's approach. I argue that the participatory perspective offers a more sound framework for studying psychological phenomena, including interpersonal, or relational, processes themselves, the founding term of Gergen's relational approach. Regarding relational processes, it enables us to address questions about (a) continuity in interpersonal behavior across relationship contexts, and (b) how relational processes within a dyad change. I maintain that the limitations of Gergen's relational approach reflect the fact that it actually represents a variant of the Cartesian framework, even though Gergen's goal was to depart from that framework. In addition, I maintain that the participatory perspective provides a more adequate basis for work in the field because it successfully goes beyond Cartesianism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-373
Number of pages16
JournalReview of General Psychology
Volume17
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2013

Keywords

  • Cartesian framework
  • Continuity of interpersonal behavior across contexts
  • Gergen's relational approach
  • Participatory perspective
  • Relational processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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