Sociology Assignment


Paper details:SO, whereas ethnocentrism is where you use your own culture as a standard – Cultural Relativism is trying to appreciate other groups ways of life without judging them superior or inferior to our own. 1) It helps avoid ‘Cultural Smugness’ 2) Cultural Relativism is a value free approach to understanding other cultures So you see it would be ethnocentric for a U.S. Anthropologist or Sociologist to judge that a bushman from Australia was backward and ignorant because they could not read, just as it would be ethnocentric if a bushman from Australia were to consider a U.S. Sociologist to be backward and ignorant because he or she could not throw a boomerang correctly. We must analyze values and norms and all of ‘Culture’ within the context of the culture being studied. 

However, Robert Edgerton argues that cultures should be evaluated on a scale based on their ‘quality of Life’. Edgerton is not a true Cultural Relativist, he says that a culture that exploits people should not be morally equivalent to those who do not. (read the WIKI article below on FGM as one example of possible cultural exploitation – also read the Hosper’s article for the differences between sociological and ethical relativism.) WIKI Article link ( ) 

Edgerton argues that all societies are sick, but some are sicker than others. And even though all societies have some customs and social institutions that compromise human well being, he notes there are traditional beliefs and practices that threaten human health and happiness more in some societies than in others. – He notes: “Populations the world over have not been well served by some of their beliefs such as, for example, those concerning witchcraft, the need for revenge, or male supremacy, and many of their traditional practices involving nutrition, health care, and the treatment of children have been harmful as well. Slavery, infanticide, feuding, suicide, and environmental pollution have sometimes been needlessly harmful to some or all members of a society and in some circumstances they can threaten social survival” (Sick Societies, p1) These question below you have to answer. 1) Do you agree with Edgerton when he suggests that some beliefs and behaviors serve “human needs” and social requisites better than others? 2) Do you believe one can evaluate on a “quality of life” scale comparing and contrasting these issues among cultures? Or would this be ethnocentric? On this discussion board, explore, in detail, these questions, including the material found in the Hosper’s article which i have attached – you may have to print it out – it is a PDF and it is sideways.


Cultural Relativism

Question One

I disagree with Edgerton’s above assertion. Although he presents an undisputable fact that indeed all societies are “sick” and some are sicker than others, it is quite evident that some of these dogmas and practices are there to achieve a certain purpose. This purpose is deeply rooted in the minds of the respective society, and as such, it carries some sort of relevance and importance to that specific group. For instance, the literature on female genital mutilation (FGM)) clearly depicts it as a vile act that should be outlawed. However, some societies take immense pride in practice. For example, some Arab tribes in Sudan consider FGM as a way of cleansing, honoring, and preparing them for marriage (Gruenbaum 429). They attribute this behavior as a means to achieving their human and social needs regardless of the health implications. Thus, different societies have varying perceptions of what it means to serve human needs and to meet social requisites.


Question 2

I strongly believe that the quality of life cannot be used as a primary tool for drawing out meaningful comparisons across different cultures. This is because the perception of quality of life varies between different societies and cultures. Therefore, it would be ethnocentric to use this basis. For instance, it would be inappropriate to adopt the idea of quality of life developed by one culture and to apply it on other cultures and ethnic groups. This is primarily because the conception and perception of the quality of life varies from one community to another, hence the need to adopt cultural relativism to foster cross-cultural coherence and tolerance resulting in cultural diversity.

Hospers’s argument concerning ethical relativism strongly supports this assertion (171). In his view, the fact that dogmatic views and cultural practices are normally used to dictate the way of life for a certain group does not necessarily imply that members of that group have adopted the wrong practices (Hospers 171). It largely depends on the situation at hand. As such, these disparities in cultural practices among different groups are dictated by differences in circumstances.

Works Cited

Gruenbaum, Ellen. “Socio-Cultural Dynamics of Female Genital Cutting: Research Findings, Gaps and Directions.” Culture, Health and Sexuality, 7.5 (2005): 429-441.

Hospers, John. “The Problem with Relativism.” In Christina Hoff Sommers and Fred Sommers. Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life: Introductory Readings in Ethics, 8th Edition. 169-173.London: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

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