Ethnocentrism Versus Cultural Relativism: Comparative Essay

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Both ethnocentrism and cultural relativism contradict one another due to having their own set of beliefs and , therefore, they share no common ground. Both types of culture are different from one another and have different strengths and weaknesses. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to look at other cultures and judge it by the standard of one’s very own culture. Basically, it’s the idea that one’s culture is the main standard that other cultures should be measured by. This type of behavior is normal because not everyone could be open-minded. Most of the time, when we encounter people who have different ideas, beliefs, etc than us, we typically try to seek a common ground or try to reject it. For example, as a kid who grew up with Asian parents, it was taught that looking into people’s eyes was disrespectful when I’m talking to them, especially when they were older than me. However, with Western’s beliefs, this type of behavior was encouraged — that, when speaking to anyone, making direct eye-contact meant that you were interactively listening to them. For instance, my parents would be considered to be an ethnocentrist as they would consider others’ beliefs to be confusing to understand and therefore become prone to making quick criticism about them. Very often, people that are ethnocentric aren’t aware that they’re comparing another culture’s with theirs. To these people, the culture of an ethnocentric person are, essentially what is considered to be ‘normal’ and everything else outside of the box would be considered as ‘abnormal’.

Another example could be seen with Adolf Hitler during the Nazi Germany. Through history, we can see many choices leaders often make is through ethnocentrism. During this heinous time period, Adolf ingrained the belief that humans born with blue eyes and blond hair were the superior race into his citizens. Jewish people were depicted to be evil and are sent to the concentration camps. Everyone in that time period worshipped Hitler and agreed to his ideology. Those who did not were judged harshly and were punished for their disagreements. The people who were sent to concentration camps obviously didn’t deserve the torture they received, but options that differ from Hitler was very much oppressed and Germany became a nation where it would only be at peace as long as they follow in Hitler’s beliefs and ideology.

Continuing with the Hitler example, there were many strengths found upon how he led his people through the method ethnocentrism. First, before Hitler even rose to power, Germany was falling into depression from war. Children were starving to death. The citizens of Germany were burning money and all valuables they owned just to create fires to keep them warm. The nation, itself, was broken and Hitler reunited them all together by using a minority group as a scapegoat. The prejudice against one minority group created this extreme ethnocentrism environment in Germany. But, under it, all remain loyal to the ideology and beliefs and does not criticize against it. Most of the people in Germany as well as the soldiers were devoted to Hitler Therefore, in conclusion, the biggest points to ethnocentrism is that it allows people to come together and speak in a collective voice that, for better or worse, shape our world. Ethnocentrism could wind up having both a positive or a negative effect on the world. If there is one problem that needs to be addressed, then ethnocentrism could allow people to speak with one voice in a negative way as well, ass seen with the Nazi’s culture. https://connectusfund.org/6-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-ethnocentrism )

Some weaknesses on ethnocentrism is that the decisions people make can often be based on “unrealistic comparison.” Ethnocentrism has always has the attitude that one’s culture is more superior to the others.Every person on this planet has their own definition of “normal,” so that means they all see things differently than most people. Therefore most would find themselves judging another culture based on “perspectives gained without the use of wisdom.” When people draw their own conclusions using ethnocentrism, it based on their foundation. Their decision-making skills does not equate with facts, but are generalized with opinions. when using ethnocentrism as their foundation for decision-making are based on generalizations and opinions instead of facts. Ethnocentrism can cause societal polarization, meaning segregation. Throughout history it is proven that most people are scared of people, things, etc that are different than them and they find it difficult to embrace that change and diversity, therefore, they reject it — refusing to develop through intermingling ideas. Two groups whose culture conflicts and contradict with one another and view each other as being the one with the inferior culture is an example of societal polarization. Especially when both aren’t willing to compromise with one another because they fear change and therefore, they choose to take sides than to get along with everybody. When you’re first exposed to something different, the first and natural response is to seek out the negative parts of that culture, finding the things you dislike or find strange about it. Ethnocentrism enhances the negativity because it’s sole goal is to strengthen their individualized superiority.

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Cultural relativism is the idea that “a person’s beliefs, values, and practices should be understood based on that person’s own culture, rather than be judged against the criteria of another.” A social scientist, Franz Boas, who had worked with people discovered this. This is a fact: People change and when they do, their culture will change. Humanity is always evolving and adapting to the changes around them. When you enter a room wil air conditioning on at full blast, you hug yourself, trying to find ways to stay warm. However, as time passes, before you even realize it, you had gotten used to the temperature and was fully focused on your professor’s lecture. This is similar to what cultural relativism is as it implements the ability to evolve and adapt. Even the definitions of “right” and “wrong” can change when people and their culture change. Cultural relativism “ eliminates the rigidity that societies have in place regarding ethics, conduct, and reasoning.” It also means that there are no actual definitions that are in place for a society. Cultural relativism promotes an individualistic perspective which governs how a person acts, thinks, and responds. Each person can set their own moralistic codes which they follow.

Cultural relativism promotes cooperation and throughout the centuries, it is seen in history that humanity is strong because we all put aside all our differences and work together, This could be depicted during the world war one and two. Without allies to assist the United States, the world would be a very different place because we would have lost. Every individual have a different way of thinking and that’s due to their upbrings, how they were raised, what they experienced in life, etc. By embracing the many differences each and every person has, it creates a society where equality is possible. Cultural relativism creates a society without judgment.However, it is hard not to judge other people. It’s simply natural instincts. Even the simple sigh of relief, feeling grateful someone’s bad luck isn’t yours is a sign of judgement. Theoretically, under cultural relativism, such judgments are not present. People who might disagree with certain aspects of another’s opinion are able to set up their own codes, values and standards for their own individualities. Basically, Instead of worrying about others, you only worry about yourself. Another positive thing about cultural relativism is that It stops cultural conditioning. People tend to adapt their attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs to the people they are with on a regular basis. This is cultural conditioning and it prevents people from having an individualistic perspective. Cultural relativism stops this.

Weaknesses of Cultural relativism are that it could potentially create a society full of personal bias. People will typically be drawn to those who share similar ideas, thoughts and feelings with them and so, segregation will occur. When people are given the power to define their own moral codes, they will do it based on their own personal beliefs and bias. There won’t be a group perspective, and therefore, would create chaos. Ultimately, people who follow their own codes will not have “ right” and “wrong” and therefore will pursue the life they want without any restriction thanks to cultural relativism. For example, if there is a bag in the store that you like, you can steal it as long as your own moral code grants and says that is the right thing to do. There will be no rules and therefore, society has no way of protecting themselves due to the fact that everyone is on their own and they’re the one who’s responsible for their own actions. It creates a system that is Dawrwainian, where only the strongest could survive. Cultural relativism allows people to come together and combine their strengths, however, it also can encourage them all to draw away from one another. C.S. Lewis, in work, Hell from The Screwtape Letters, wrote about a place where people are separating themselves from one another to avoid the demons each person has with them because they do not know what sort of demons they all have and what rules each one abides. No one wants to die or lose anything and so, the natural response was self-preservation. Everyone avoided one another for the sake of protecting themselves. Another example on the negative side of cultural relativism is a true story of a young African-American teen who was walking down the alley, wearing his hoodie with his hood up. His hands were stuffed in his pockets and there was a bulge there. In this scenario, there are two assumptions. The bulge was a gun or a package of candy. Regardless of what it is, the decision to act becomes a right one because the person’s culture allowed them to turn their perception into truths through their very own bias.

Cultural relativism is more prone to social change because it starts with curiosity. An example of this is someone from my life. My friend Casey is a catholic, but she is very curious about everything in the world.

For instance, Casey is a cultural relativist; she prefers to look at other cultures in terms of what their practices bring to them. She believes that if a tribe paints their faces for religious ceremonies, there must be a good reason why they do that. Is there a practical reason for it, or is it symbolic? If symbolic, where do the symbols come from? These questions allow a closer examination of the practices of others than ethnocentrism. This doesn’t imply that a relativist, like Casey, doesn’t have strong beliefs of her own. Rather, other cultures are simply not judged with reference to one’s own culture. Again, this often has to be trained into people.

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Ethnocentrism Versus Cultural Relativism: Comparative Essay. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 1, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/ethnocentrism-versus-cultural-relativism-comparative-essay/
“Ethnocentrism Versus Cultural Relativism: Comparative Essay.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/ethnocentrism-versus-cultural-relativism-comparative-essay/
Ethnocentrism Versus Cultural Relativism: Comparative Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/ethnocentrism-versus-cultural-relativism-comparative-essay/> [Accessed 1 Jul. 2022].
Ethnocentrism Versus Cultural Relativism: Comparative Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2022 Jul 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/ethnocentrism-versus-cultural-relativism-comparative-essay/
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