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Crocker on Ethnocentrism Essay

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David A. Crocker asks the question of who should be tasked with the development of moral ethics on a global level, especially in regions where ethical thought is relatively shallow. If there was one way he would answer this question, he would state that a combination of “insider” and “outsider” ethicists would find the best and culturally sensitive form of morality for particular cultures. For this to have any meaning however, a description is required for both “insider” and “outsider”. An “insider”, as termed by Crocker, is “one who is counted, recognized, or accepted by himself/herself and the other group members, as belonging to the group” (Crocker, 29).

In regards to ethical thought of the group, Crocker outlines several advantages and disadvantages of being a predominant “insider”. When a development ethicist is an “insider” of a group they understand their past, present, and goals when it comes to moral thought, and can therefore help the group to develop (with ease on the topic of communication) in the most beneficial ways foreseeable in tandem with their beliefs.

Along the lines of communication of an “insider”, they have a foundation from which to criticize and rebuke negative actions of a group because of their familiarity with said group’s customs and beliefs. However, “insiders” do not come without inhibitions as well. “Insiders” may become so immersed in their society and its customs that they are unable to expand their own, and their society’s horizon on the topic of moral thought. Crocker argues that because of the familiarity of the culture, an “insider” may be blind to factors that define a culture in an existential manner, “Like a fish unaware of the water in which it continually swims” (Crocker, 33).

In essence, an “insider” has an easy time familiarizing with their culture, but may have trouble assessing the culture from an unbiased manner. “Outsiders” are the direct opposite to an “insider” meaning they do not have a recognition or acceptance of the culture, or themselves within that culture. An “outsider can be beneficial to a social group in the way the outsider can assess the culture in an unbiased manner, and with this perspective, “outsider-ethicist strengths are the mirror image of an insider-ethicist weaknesses” and therefore the “outsider” is able to give insight on the things the culture may be unaware of (Crocker, 35). “Outsiders” are also able to bring out new ideas to a group based on their own culture, ideas the culture in assessment may not have even considered. The last advantage of an “outsider” is that they are not bound by the “insider’s” commitments to the group or status quo, and can therefore say things, or criticize things that a member of the group would not. Being an “outsider” has a list of negative attributes as well. “Outsiders” do not have the same familiarity with the customs of the group and how certain actions affect them, and Crocker argues that these key understandings are “relevant for progressive social change” (Crocker, 34). “Outsiders” who come from a more developed region and culture tend to put more trust in their own ideas and disregard the ingenuity of the group under assessment.

In the long term, the groups that have an “outsider” ethicist may become dependent upon them for ideas, and thereby never becoming able to express their own ideas, and their own norms become weakened. David Crocker explains ethnocentrism as having 2 main concerns. The first he describes as being a “habitual disposition to judge foreign peoples or groups by the standards and practices of one’s own culture or ethnic group”, and the second is described as the “tendency toward viewing alien cultures with disfavor and a resulting sense of inherent superiority” (Crocker, 27). Crocker’s accounts of “insiders” and “outsiders” do answer some of the concerns raised by ethnocentrism. Not one, nor the other is predominantly to blame for ethnocentrism, rather both “insiders” and “outsiders” demonstrate these negative aspects.

“Insiders” can reject any advice from an outsider with the existence of an a priori that gives the “insider” the notion that “nothing can be learned from an outsider”. Outsiders exhibit ethnocentrism in the way they give more credit to the ideas of their own culture because it is often socio-economically more developed. Ethnocentrism in cross-culture assessment and dialogue, Crocker states, can be diminished by things like “achievement of more equality between various centres and their corresponding peripheries, the recognition of dangers peculiar to insiders and outsiders, respectively, and the promotion of appropriate kinds of insider/outsider combinations in development ethicists” (Crocker, 35). Essentially an equilibrium in “insider” and “outsider” ethicists. This is how he answers his question of whom is responsible for ethical thought, the correct combination of “insider” and “outsider” ethicists.

Koggel, Christine M.. “David A. Crocker.”Moral issues in global perspective. Volume II: Human Diversity and Equality ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press, 2006. 27-35. Print.

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