Compare & contrast ethnocentrism & cross-cutting cleavages. How have these two concepts contributed to our political perspectives?

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Cross-cutting cleavage is a political term. “Cleavages” are those social factors that tend to divide people – religion, politics, race, economics. Cleavages create groups of people that are categorized by these social factors but no one group can align 100% of its members along a single cleavage. For example, not all minorities are represented by just one religion. Minorities have several different religions, hence there is “cutting” across the cleavage – “cross cutting.”

Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s ethnic or cultural group, or nation sometimes (just one cleavage) is more important than all others. Ethnocentrism has more to do with perceptions whereas cleavages are concrete. 

How have these two concepts contributed to our political perspectives? Are you referring to the United States (because eNotes has postings by many foreign students). I will assume you are referring to the United States. I will pose a few questions to help you answer this question.

Obviously, the United States has cross-cutting cleavages. We are a melting pot of many cultures and some of these cultures are well-off economically and some are not. We have hundreds of different religions and many political views beyond our two-party system. Cross cutting is quite prevalent in the U.S. How do you think this affects politics, then? Since we are a democracy, we elect representatives. Can you see how the many cleavages that exist in the U.S. present challenges to governance? What kind of laws should we have? How can the laws be fair to all people? Think about this, for example, with regard to the current health care debate. Do you see the problems in trying to make everybody happy in a country with so many different groups? Will health care be a Robin Hood – steal from the rich to give to the poor? Cross-cutting cleavages is a challenge to any nation, but especially the U.S.

With regard to ethnocentrism, some additional questions. Do you think the U.S. has the mentality that we are the most powerful country in the world? Do we believe that our way of life, governance, is the best? Can this type of thinking cause problems worldwide? What about other nations. Isn't this what leads to wars? The uber example of this was Nazi Germany. Don’t the terrorists want to annihilate us because they believe their cultures and religions are better than ours?

Lots to think about here and these are weighty issues. Hopefully, this will get you started.

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