The concept of cultural relativism has been developed to combat ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is a belief that one’s culture or ethnic group is superior to all other cultures of ethnic groups. Contrary to this, cultural relativism is a belief that no culture is superior or inferior.
Cultural relativism can be defined as an idea that a person’s beliefs, practices and values must be understood on the basis of that person’s own culture and must not be judged against the criteria of another culture.
Cultural relativism can be explained in the following words:
- (a) Founder
- (b) Advantages
- (c) Disadvantages
term “cultural relativism” was established by Franz Boas during initial decades of twentieth century.
Followings are advantages of cultural relativism:
- (b-i) Cooperation
- (b-ii) Society without judgment
- (b-iii) Respect
- (b-iv) Equality
- (b-v) Genuine interest
- (b-vi) Human cultures
- (b-vii) Individual treatment
- (b-viii) Personal moral codes
- (b-ix) Cultural conditioning
Cultural relativism establishes a system that promotes cooperation.
(b-ii) Society Without Judgment
Cultural relativism creates a society without judgment. The only person that judges you is yourself. Instead of worrying about others, you only worry about yourself. Therefore, there is no place for judgment in the theory of cultural relativism.
Respect is encouraged in the system of cultural relativism.
Cultural relativism allows the individual to define his moral code without defining the moral code of others. Each person is separate in such a society. This separation creates equality.
(b-v) Genuine Interest
In cultural relativism, every person pursues his own interests without restriction. In this way, cultural relativism encourages people to pursue genuine interest.
(b-vi) Human Cultures
Cultural relativism preserves human cultures.
(b-vii) Individual Treatment
Each culture can be treated as an individual under the theory of cultural relativism.
(b-viii) Personal Moral Codes
Cultural relativism allows people to create personal moral codes on the basis of societal standards.
(b-ix) Cultural Conditioning
People tend to adapt their attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs to the people they are with on a regular basis. This is called cultural conditioning. And cultural relativism stops the cultural conditioning
Followings are disadvantages of cultural relativism:
- (c-i) Chaos
- (c-ii) Perfection of humanity
- (c-iii) Moral & human progress
- (c-iv) Conversion of perceptions into truths
- (c-v) Isolation
- (c-vi) Individualistic point of view
- (c-vii) Transformation of beliefs into realities
- (e-viii) Similar viewpoints
Cultural relativism allows people to follow their own moral code. In other words, it allows the people to live any life they preferred. In this way, it causes chaos in the society.
(c-ii) Perfection Of Humanity
Cultural relativism is based on perfection of humanity. But it is almost impossible to have perfection of humanity.
(c-iii) Moral & Human Progress
Cultural relativism can limit moral and human progress.
(e-iv) Conversion Of Perceptions Into Truths
Cultural relativism can turn perceptions into truths.
It can encourage people to isolate themselves.
(c-vi) Individualistic Point Of View
Cultural relativism can promote an individualistic point of view.
(e-vii) Transformation Of Beliefs Into Realities
Cultural relativism can transform beliefs into realities.
(c-viii) Similar Viewpoints
Cultural relativism encourages people to establish alliances with others, who share similar viewpoints.
It can be finally stated that concept of cultural relativism was popularized by the followers and students of Franz Boas. However, it has never been implemented on large scale. There are many reasons for its non-implementation on large scale.