The Use of Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism When Examining Different Cultures

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About this sample


Words: 693 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Nov 20, 2018

Words: 693|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Nov 20, 2018

At some point in our lives, every one of us will have to respond to some kind of cultural differences. Obviously, some professions and lifestyles will expose you to more contrasting societies than others. However, in a world as global as ours is today, coming in contact with different norms in unavoidable. There are two basic attitudes you can use when examining these different societal norms.

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The first frame of mind you can adopt to form your response is called ethnocentrism. This means that you judge other cultures as if they were supposed to fit into your worldview, conform to your norms. Ethnocentrism can help you keep your sense of normal, keep your values straight. However, it can also be a very dangerous mindset. Trying to hold other societies to the same standards, and judging them by the same rules you would put on people in your own society, keeps you from understanding others’ values. It’s hard to have any understanding or sympathy for people if you ignore the thoughts behind their actions in favor of philosophies that better fit your expectations. This view can also lead to racism. The lack of understanding that comes with this judgement can lead people to believe that their culture is superior to another, based on arbitrary opinions about practices or beliefs that they know next to nothing about.

The other way to judge other cultures, is with a mind set called cultural relativism. This point of view emphasises looking at a cultural as a whole in order to judge parts of it. With cultural relativism, you have to understand that every culture has a logic that makes sense to the members of that society. Whether you approve of these values or not, you can understand them if you evaluate them as a whole, by judging them by their standards, not your own. Cultural relativism also points out that each culture was formed under unique circumstances, and these diverse cultures can not all be judged the same way. The downside to this frame of mind, in contrast to ethnocentrism, is that you have to adopt a different way of thinking. Not that you necessarily have to agree with these different values, but you do have to use a different mind set. This can confuse your values and your personal philosophy.

One of the obvious differences between some cultures is race. Most people associate the part of the world you come from with a certain skin color. Some even assume you have certain characteristics or attributes because of your skin color and your heritage. However, from an anthropological standpoint, race is not real. “Most anthropologists today agree that biological race does not exist and that racial classifications are socially constructed. This is because a) no group of humans has ever been isolated long enough from another to make it biologically different from other groups. b) the selection of traits used in the past to define race is arbitrary and is based solely on visual characteristics and personal preference of the researcher. c) there is an inability to describe variation within the human species. d) there has been repeated independent emergence of so-called racial characteristics in different populations with no direct genetic relationship. The greatest differences between people are cultural differences.” (Week 1: Anthropology and Human Diversity). According to these findings, differences between races exist only in our minds. We invented other races because we didn’t know how to classify people who were different than us. Race is culturally constructed, and any prejudices or assumptions based on skin color have no foundation.

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Every culture is different. They all have different belief systems, societal norms, and philosophies. I believe that if you approach other societies with an ethnocentric mind set, you will never be able to truly understand them. You have to put yourself in their shoes to understand their way of life. As for race, we all need to stop perpetuating the problem. We’ve believed bad information for a long time, and now we need to realize that people all have the same biological and mental capacities. Every culture is different, but basically, every “race” is the same.

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The Use of Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism When Examining Different Cultures. (2018, November 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from
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