Ethnocentrism

1039 Words Apr 20th, 2012 5 Pages
(Ethnocentrism vs. Cultural Relativism)

As a Sociologist, should we practice Cultural Ethnocentrism or Cultural Relativism?

We must first understand the two distinct theories regarding perception of outside cultures: Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism. Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one's own culture.[1] The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion - these ethnic distinctions and subdivisions serve to define each ethnicity’s unique cultural identity.[2] The logical alternative to ethnocentrism is Cultural relativism, the practice of judging a
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We live in a rapidly changing world, which is increasingly bringing people of various cultures in closer interaction with each other. This interaction can be positive or negative depending on the level of sensitivity and respect people have for other cultural groups. Negative attitudes towards other cultures and/or ethnic groups arise out of ethnocentrism, while positive attitudes are the result of a culturally relativist approach. If people are going to be successful in today's multicultural, informative society, they will need to develop a culturally sensitive frame of reference and mode of operation.

Some of the pros/strengths that Cultural relativism presents are listed below: 1. It encourages respect and tolerance for all cultures and societies. 2. By extension, it advocates for equality among and between cultures 3. It encourages a sense of unity within a culture by maintaining that all are bound by the same rules. 4. It warns us against assuming that all of our own cultural practices are based on some “absolute rational standard”. 5. It stresses the benefits of keeping an open mind and not rushing to judgment.

Cultural relativism suggests that whatever any culture does is acceptable and we must positively judge other cultures’ practices—it is “right” for them. Who am I to judge differently? Cultural relativism arises out of a concern not to impose our cultural values on other cultures. The problem with believing that all values are…