24 May 2022


Culture, Ethnocentrism, and Cultural Relativism

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Academic level: Master’s

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Since the middle Stone Age, human beings are considered as social creatures, from those days people have identified and associated with each other as a community to live and survive. Common behavior and habits unite people living together (Little et al., 2012). Culture consists of various people behavior objects and set of beliefs and other characteristics usually exhibited by a particular group of people in a society. Every culture includes various community aspects: values, customs, common language, norms, ethics, morals, tools, government, and an institution. There are two forms of culture which are physical culture and non-material culture. Material culture refers to physical objects belonging to a particular group of people in the society, examples of material culture include, busses, clothes, food, physical structures like buildings where people live and worship whereas nonmaterial culture consist of notions, beliefs, morals, ethics, and attitude that a group of people should observe in a society (Little et al., 2012).

Comparison of two different cultures will reveal different results. But almost all culture share common characteristics known as cultural universals. Cultural universals are common traits or patterns shared or present in all society around the world. An example of cultural universal is the household unit or a nuclear family. Every human society in the world acknowledges the family structure which is in charge of controlling reproduction and bringing up of children.

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Despite human beings having similar or common cultural traits, cultural differences outdo cultural universal. An example every culture has a unique language with a specific language structure, and different conversational etiquette portrays the difference. The way food diets vary from one culture to another fascinates many people (Little et al., 2012). A case where people from a different culture judges another society for eating dog and thinking its weird while they don't question their habit of eating beef and mutton. Such kind of attitude is an example of ethnocentrism, assessing and judging a social culture based on how it is different from their cultural beliefs and norms (Karreth, 2018).

Sociologist Graham describes ethnocentrism as a state where a person has a set of beliefs and attitude that his own culture is superior or better than all other cultures in the world. Everyone in the world possesses ethnocentric beliefs. For instance, the American talks of the African having wrong road signs which indicate always keep left rather than driving while staying on the right side. The love and appreciation of one’s culture can be healthy and improves the sense of community egotism by uniting people. Although too much ethnocentrism can lead to hating people culture, causing conflicts and tribal wars (Little et al., 2012). People with good intentions travel to people living in a less winning culture and introduces cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism involves adding a new method of technology in farming and health, new plant species to increase food availability. Ethnocentrism sometimes can be so strong when provoked with all the variances of a new culture, and anyone may experience frustration causing culture shock. Culture shock happens when a person is not expecting cultural variations between societies (Karreth, 2018).

Cultural Relativism

Cultural Relativism can be defined as evaluating culture belonging to a particular cultural group by its principles rather than just seeing it over the focal point of one's way of life (Little et al., 2012). Ruth Benedict, an anthropologist, reasoned that every culture in the world has an inside reliable form of beliefs and deed, which could be used to evaluate the advantages and ethics of one's cultural practices. Cultural relativism requires a person who is open-minded and has the ability and will to consider and adapt to, new morals and customs. However, it is challenging to embrace everything about a new culture.

African- American Cultural Group

My, cultural group is African-American; this is one of the cultural minority groups present in the United States of America. A cultural group is made up of people who share the same common cultural practices, traditions, and the same history. The cultural group identifies people living in a specific society.

Cultural Norms

Cultural norms influence my culture; in any society, cultural norms are part of the cultural group. Norms affect the way a person in a cultural group interacts with the rest of the people in the society. Cultural norms assist people to communicate easily with other peoples in the society by proving atypical behavior and morals which people should observe, and there is no need to devise new instructions every time they came across a new person. Cultural norms are present in every society or any cultural group and have fundamental similarities and varying differences (Schneider & Heath, 2018). Cultural norms are the principles we live by as back American. And these norms are the collective prospects and rules that govern behavior, morals, and values of people within the black American community. Cultural norms are taught and strengthened by parents, friends, teachers and other members of the society to children while growing up.

Ethnocentric Perspective

From the definition, I can say ethnocentrism is the ability, or the tendency of a person to think about his culture, race or ethnic group is more powerful than other people’s culture. Since I possess ethnocentrism and everyone does I can say that ethnocentrism creates enormous problems in anyone perception about people color and society culture, primarily when approaching people from a different community without the knowledge of their culture (Karreth, 2018). I believe that everyone should acknowledge and try to control their ethnocentrism, and so you don’t interfere with the capability to perceive other people from different cultural groups correctly.

Sometime ethnocentrism fuels prejudice and attributed to lack or misrepresentation of information about other people’s culture you might be dealing with. Prejudice is frequently caused by wrong ideas or with prior contact with an individual, people that left a bad image and based on race, skin color, gender or any other association to a particular cultural group. Prejudice and ethnocentrism have adverse effects on everyone and stabilizing it will help us to perform better in multicultural interactions (Karreth, 2018).

Perspective Based on Cultural Relativism

Cultural relativism is the ability to understand morals, values, and norms of a different culture which varies but no culture is better when compared to another one, every culture is essential. Based on the notion that there is no absolute principle of wrong or moral and so any conclusion about good or bad is a by-product of the community. Thus any judgment on cultural belief or morals is subject to the cultural perspective of each (Bowie, 2015). Defines that no norm can be termed as good or bad, and no specific society culture is best or worst.

Perspective is significant in the understanding of customs, history, and politics. Cultural perspective helps an individual to recognize why particular actions are termed as good or bad by a specific culture. For instance, in the prehistoric era, dying of hair with green color was considered as a disciplinary felony, whereas in 21st-century hair dyeing is regarded as a fashionable style. Hence, the right cultural perspective might explain to us. If we could find out dying hair with green color was an indication of prostitution, everyone would comprehend that the color wasn't the problem, but prostitution was an outcast (Bowie, 2015).

Nevertheless, the challenge with transiting from a cultural perspective to cultural relativism is the destruction of purpose that it causes. Relatively than just saying, all of us need to familiarize with the morals and norms of other peoples culture. And hence no one should attempt to criticize the ethics, beliefs, and morals of their people’s culture irrespective of the motive for their deeds (Bowie, 2015). It is hard to discuss whether the actions for any culture are right or wrong while holding a tough cultural relativism. It is impossible to state that the killing of twins in the African community was wrong or respect and honor for elderly is right because at the end all these actions are the product of culture and no one can change it.

Example of Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism Racisms on African American, the difference in cultural diversity where black American community, is associated with the following factors, black skin color, voice tone, poor social, economic status whereas the white It community comprises of people with white skin color, right social, economic conditions. The complexion color of most white people makes them think their culture is more superior compared to black people. Denying black people their freedom, this is a contributing factor to racisms. Sometimes racism accelerates interpersonal conflicts between the whites and blacks living in the same community. Conflictive ethnocentrism is developed causing havoc in the community; racism is hard to live and come in terms with it because, and at the time it became hard to accept that you are being denied rights and freedom due to your skin color.


Bowie, N. E. (2015). Relativism, cultural and moral.  Wiley Encyclopedia of Management , 1-4.

Karreth, A. K. (2018). Development in Theory and Practice: Culture, Ethnocentrism, and the Liberal Model.  Polity 50 (4), 664-675.

Little, W., Vyain, S., Scaramuzzo, G., Cody-Rydzewski, S., Griffiths, H., Strayer, E., ... & Mcgivern, R. (2012). Introduction to Sociology-1st Canadian edition.  BC Open Textbook project .

Schneider, S. L., & Heath, A. F. (2018). Uncovering ethnic and cultural diversity in Europe: A new classification of ethnic and cultural groups.

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