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Ethnocentrism Vs. Cultural Relativism: The Similarities and Differences

Updated on August 20, 2014

To Start, what Exactly is Ethnocentrism?

Ethnocentrism, in it's formal quoted definition from is as follows:

  1. The belief in the inherent superiority of one's own ethnic group or culture.
  2. A tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one's own.

Anthropology has a defined approach to this, as it sees various cultures as living within a limited, yet shared cultural bubble of sorts. This can be seen as easily as the type of house you build on a certain street, one of japanese culture may seem "Different" as if it was seen on an American street, or vice versa. The same could be said for the religious aspects of sharing what you have with the community, your general well being whereas economics presents the challenge of pursuing your goals and gains without the needs of others.

Religion and State, depending on the particular society could cause a massive ethnocentrism as seen with the burning of particular religious texts to show or present a message of dominance over another religion, whereas the state would condone such an action, as seen in the United States. Here is two videos below to show just how graphic such superiority complexes may seem, reasoning below each to explain why:

Be Warned: This is Graphic Talk and Imaging

Another Reason behind being Judged, to have a form of Ethnocentrism

To start, this is Religious Extremism, even known Christians will shudder at the mere sight of this video. The reason being is because the limited environment that this individual may have grown up around could present a case of Ethnocentrism towards another religion and culture, not understanding the other culture's psychology or views that they would feel about this. Here is another video that would show the opposite coin or culture, one that dictates an extremist nature as well, pointing out the Ethnocentrism isn't in just one race or species, but can be created from any culture:

So enough of the hate, what about Cultural Relativism?

Cultural Relativism, could be coined by a man named Alain Locke, a great African-American Philosopher and artist, writer, etc. He explained a notion called a "Value-Mode", that is:

the value-mode establishes for itself, directly through feeling, a qualitative category which, as discriminated by its appropriate feeling-quality, constitutes an emotionally mediated form of experience. - Alain Locke

In this he explains that one culture, or it's cultural norms, can somewhat be found in another even if both extremes have to find a balance within itself. As a philosopher, he found hard to make the understanding possible that African-Americans could function together with Whites in activities, regardless of a race or illusion of a superiority. Here is a video below that dictates just what he meant:


Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism, a Flipped View

So you're starting to paint the picture now on what exactly both mean. How can then superiority and Ethnocentrism of absorbing one's cultures to exemplify it and Cultural Relativism help to crush this dilemma? Lets consider two photos on the right, one is upside down, as people from the southern hemisphere would see it, and the other right side up, as the northern hemisphere would see it. Take in perspective all cultures that have seen the southern hemisphere map, and you can clearly see that Russia is larger and much more profound than the united states, that Canada has a larger Landmass, so why is the USA in control of so much? It seems to say that through ethnocentric views, one may question US morals and values and downgrade the civilization as an imperialistic threat to their lands.

On the other hand, there is the northern hemisphere map, one that dictates what the USA and other European countries see. This sheds a different light, giving landmasses a different appeal, causing different mindsets for various individuals that may have or have no heart for the smaller countries of the southern hemisphere, asking why their not so powerful or widespread as some in the North. This shows Ethnocentrism, but where's the Cultural Relativism? Here's a video that may help to allow you to discover that we are all human, and we share a freedom to make a consensus of choice, that not one human being knows it all intellectually, physically or mentally.

So what does it all mean?

This is what it means, to understand that greed begets greed, that charlie chaplin spoke in one of his greatests acts this statement:

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone - if possible - Jew, Gentile - black man - white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way - Charlie Chaplin


Find the love for Humanity, find your balance of the norm that is Cultural Relativism

In this you find Ethnocentric Relativism, a way of conquering greed and hate through a parody of what hitler had been doing in the World War. It perceives that relativism can be found but only by not overstepping one's boundaries, to understand that the cultural box that is Ethnocentrism is not turned into a genocidal pandoras box. We as humans must face the reality that hate is and always will be everlasting but it is up to us to fight against that hate with love and kindhearted ways. What do you think of Ethnocentrism, and the cultural norms that we find in that balance that is Cultural Relativism?


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    • BakerRambles profile image

      BakerRambles 3 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Thank you, this article was meant to show that a cultural middle can be found even if an isolated culture is found to stay away from society as a whole, eventually anthropologists and others can find the relativity of it all.