Ethnocentrism

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(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 culture by its own standards. Cultural relativism can be difficult for certain individuals to adopt: it requires not only openness to unfamiliar values and norms but also the ability to put aside cultural standards we have known all our lives.[3]

No one ethnic group has the right to say that their particular system of beliefs and values are in any way superior to anyone else’s system of beliefs and values. What is right for one culture might be wrong for another. There is no absolute standard of right and wrong by which to compare and contrast morally contradictory cultural values. Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism are mutually exclusive. The social sciences are limited to what can be observed, measured and verified. The question of what is right and wrong lies outside of the discipline, in the field of ethics. A social scientist can only predict a certain outcome, and not pass judgment on whether that outcome is morally right or wrong. In order to do this, a Scientist must set aside his/her role as a scientist and speak as a concerned citizen. Only so can he/she make a moral declaration.


From a Sociologist point of view, I…...

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