Contempt for Other Cultures in Ethnocentric Societies: Superiority or Hostility?

People within the western world are lucky to hold a privileged position within the worlds social system. Everything done by these people stems from the fact that they were brought up in a certain type of society that offers opportunities. "Sociology is - the systematic, sceptical study of human society", (Ken Plummer). So as sociologists it should be remembered that our perspective and outlook could be different due to the upbringing that was had. This must not affect however sociologists judgements upon society.

Peter Berger (1963) described the sociological perspective as "Seeing the general in the particular".

Socialization allows social interaction, social learning and social development. This allows people to learn who others are, how they are connected to others and how they can manage those social connections. The understanding of how social life is organised, maintained and changed. Cultural perspectives allow people to gain knowledge and give meaning to the world around them. Anticipatory socialization is the learning of values and orientations related to roles one may play in the future.

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Resocialization embraces new sets of norms, values and expectations as people encounter new situations roles and relationships.

Socialization is generally, a never-ending process of learning about oneself and our connection to the world around us. Ethnocentrism is the feeling that one's group has a mode of living, values and patterns of adaption that are superior to those of other groups. It is coupled with a generalized contempt for members of other groups. Ethnocentrism may manifest itself in attitudes of superiority or sometimes hostility.

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Violence, discrimination and verbal aggressiveness are other means whereby ethnocentrism may be expected. Sociologists have to beware of ethnocentrism it is always a tricky part of intercultural communication.

An American sociologist, Christina G. Boyd studied the culture and society within Saudi Arabia. She created a report called "Covered heads do not equal covered minds: the creation of self-communication among Muslim women," Within this report she discusses ethnocentric views about women within the Muslim religion, mainly concerning the way they dress. The majority of Arabian women dress conservatively. Some cover their faces and hair whilst some do not. A very conservative woman may wear the "Abayah". This is a long black garment that covers her body from her shoulders down to her feet.

Under this cover she would be wearing a traditional Arabian dress full body length with long sleeves, filled with beautiful beadwork. She could be wearing the latest styles from an internationally known designer. In addition to abayah, a very conservative woman would also wear a face and head cover. Some women may wear the abayah without the face and head cover, while others might wear a scarf called a "Hejab" that covers the hair but not the face. It is not uncommon for Americans to view women who wear abayahs and hejabs as oppressed within a male dominated society.

Boyd interviewed the Muslim women that dressed this way, one Muslim woman stated, "I'm not doing it for a particular people, a particular place or a particular time". They feel it gives them a sense of having more depth. They say that they do not wish to be significant physically. "When I put my scarf on then I really had to reach from within," said one woman. The notion of cultural relativism is the idea that cultures are equally worthy of respect and that judgement should be suspended when studying another culture. Empathy should be used in trying to understand the way a particular culture sees the world.

Cultural relativism tries to combat ethnocentrism. However this can be hard when a culture has basic tenants involving notions of superiority over other cultures, hate, and the destruction of other people. The basic tenants of a group like the Aryan nations subculture in the U. S. are an example of this. If you embrace cultural relativity in this case you are actually supporting the tenants and beliefs of this culture, in this case racism. The U. S. allows freedom of any belief and punishes specific behaviours that are violent ror discriminatory against other groups. There is a basic contradiction being presented here.

Since culture is the patterns, beliefs, values that guide our behaviour. If you teach racism violent behaviour against other groups will occur. People cannot simply look at other cultures and judge, if they did whose notions of whats right and wrong are being imposed here? This could also become a forum for rampant ethnocentrism. Even if there are basic tenants upon whom a group of cultures agree are important - for example notions of human rights - these are always going to be applied and manipulated according to specific agendas and interests. Not all cultures are treated equally with equal respect.

For example the U. S. taking the position of the guardian within western democracy and human rights, why did the U. S. jump into the Gulf war and not East Timor? "Economic interests, political agendas, personal views influence the way all cultures and individuals act" (Nathan Glazer). Although cultural relativism may be ideal, in practice particular agendas do pre dominate. On the other hand many indigenous people (ethnicities) in Latin America have appealed to human rights organisations in order to stop discrimination, land usurpation and violence practiced against them by nation states in which they live.

Ethnocentrism involves tendencies to evaluate cultures from the perspectives of your own culture. Viewing your own culture as morally correct and others as morally questionable. People become so deeply engrossed in their own culture that other cultures and people in them become unimportant. Sociologists challenge ethnocentrism, however they could never rid it from the world, as it is unhelpably innate within all societies. It is part of the human nature that sociologists study.

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Contempt for Other Cultures in Ethnocentric Societies: Superiority or Hostility?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Contempt for Other Cultures in Ethnocentric Societies: Superiority or Hostility? essay
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