Cultural Relativism and Term Ethnocentrism

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The term ethnocentrism was introduced by William Sumner in 1906, it comes from the Greek word, “ethno” meaning or referring to a nation, a people or cultural grouping, and the Latin word “centre” meaning center. It is the belief that one’s own society is superior to others based on judging other societies with the standards of one’s own. (Perry) It is found in all known societies and in all groups and in practically all individuals. Nearly every person is ethnocentric most likely without intention because we all assume things about other people’s ways. It is hard to understand what we don’t know or aren’t used to; therefore we base our judgments on our own ways, because that is what works for us.

Contrary to ethnocentrism, cultural relativity allows for the understanding of variations among culture and was brought on in response to ethnocentrism. It is the notion that an individual human’s beliefs and behavior should be understood by others in terms of that individuals own culture. It is the view that all beliefs, customs and ethics are relative to the individual within his/her own social content. According to philosopher John Cook, “ It is aimed at getting people to admit that although it may seem to them that their moral principles are self-evidently true and hence, seem to be grounds for passing judgement on other peoples, in fact, the self-evidence of these principles is a kind of illusion.”

Upon studying both the term, ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism, I conclude that we need to find a common ground between the two. It is not good to be too much of either. Too much ethnocentrism leads to being close minded and having to much cultural relativism may corrupt our good morals. Individuals can try to appreciate or understand one anothers cultures or beliefs without judgment.

America is a country made up of immigrants. Millions of immigrants have come to America to escape their own society. Our customs must be intriguing or so many...
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