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What are the similarities and differences between cultural relativism and ethnocentrism?

One similarity between cultural relativism and ethnocentrism is that both are a way of interpreting different cultures. The differences relate to whether or not you cast judgment on other cultures and consider them inferior to your own.

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Steph Müller eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To answer this question, we need to start by defining both cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism is the belief that the set of values and beliefs to which you ascribe is superior to others. In other words, it is the belief that the way of life you follow holds the high ground.

Cultural relativism, on the other hand, is being able to understand a culture without casting judgment or aspersions onto it based on the standards of your own culture.

I would therefore argue that the similarities between ethnocentrism and cultural relativism relate to the fact that both are connected to the way we view cultures other than our own.

The biggest difference is that while being ethnocentric has negative connotations, cultural relativism has positive ones. Ethnocentrism involves a lack of open-mindedness and arrogance. By deciding that one culture is superior to another, you are making a judgment call. A cultural relativist, on the other hand, will not make that judgment call and will...

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