Cultural relativism is the idea that we shouldn't evaluate other people's cultures according to our own moral standards of what is right or bad, unusual or common. Instead, we ought to make an effort to comprehend other groups' cultural practices within the context of their own culture. Culture is the collective set of shared values that individuals and groups of people possess. This is among the most crucial ideas because it recognizes and affirms the connections between broader societal structures and trends and ordinary people's lives.
• The ability to understand other cultures without holding judgments based on one's own cultural norms is known as cultural relativism.
• According to the theory of cultural relativism, moral standards vary between cultures, and what is moral in one culture may not be in another.
• According to the theory of cultural relativism, no society is better than another, they are simply different.
• This claim has several corollaries, including: different groups have different moral standards, there is no unbiased way to judge how well or bad these standards are, and people studying cultures should explain them rather than make comparisons to their own.
• According to moral relativism, what is accepted as right in one society is always right in that same culture. Some people believe that there is no real way to determine what is right and evil, which makes cultural relativism weaker.
• Although there has been discussion over cultural relativism, notably among philosophers, anthropological and sociological research has led to a consensus among social scientists that it is real.
• Ethnocentrism, which encourages people to see the world through the prism of their own culture, is in opposition to cultural relativism.
• The idea is sometimes used in research to avoid cultural bias and avoid judging another culture based on the standards of one's own.
• Because of this, cultural relativism has been seen as a defense against ethnocentrism.
Following examples demonstrate how cultural relativism appreciates and understands the diversity of cultural practices and beliefs without imposing one's own values as the universal standard:
1. Dress Code: Various cultures have distinct expectations for attire. For instance, in certain societies, women may wear headscarves or burqas as a symbol of modesty and religious devotion. It would be deemed disrespectful or inappropriate for women to appear in public without covering their heads. Conversely, in Western cultures, there is a greater emphasis on personal choice and individual freedom in dress. Cultural relativism recognizes and respects the differing norms regarding attire across cultures.
2. Dietary Practices: Different cultures observe specific dietary restrictions due to religious or cultural beliefs. For example, Hindus consider cows sacred and abstain from consuming beef, while Muslims adhere to Halal dietary guidelines that prohibit the consumption of pork. Conversely, in other cultures, these restrictions may not exist, and beef or pork may be regularly consumed. Cultural relativism acknowledges that these dietary practices are shaped by cultural norms and should be respected within their respective contexts.
3. Family Structure: Family structures and roles can significantly vary across cultures. In certain societies, extended families live together and play a vital role in child-rearing, whereas nuclear families are more prevalent in others. Moreover, the assigned roles and responsibilities for men and women within families can differ. Cultural relativism recognizes that there is no universally "correct" family structure and that these variations are influenced by cultural values and traditions.
4. Greetings and Gestures: Each culture possesses its own customs and norms when it comes to greetings and gestures. For instance, in Western cultures, shaking hands is a customary form of greeting, while in some Eastern cultures like Japan, bowing is the traditional way to show respect and greet others. Cultural relativism acknowledges that these practices vary and that what may be considered polite or appropriate in one culture may differ in another.
5. Concept of Time: The perception and value placed on time can differ across cultures. Punctuality and strict adherence to schedules are highly valued in certain cultures, while a more relaxed attitude towards time may prevail in others. For example, in many Western cultures, being punctual for appointments or meetings is considered important, whereas in certain African or Latin American cultures, a more flexible approach to time may be common. Cultural relativism recognizes that these differences reflect cultural norms and priorities.
Types of Cultural Relativism
• Two varieties of cultural relativism exist:
o Absolute cultural relativism
o Critical cultural criticism.
• Absolute cultural relativists believe that no aspect of a culture should be questioned by outsiders.
• Critical cultural relativism, on the other hand, looks at power relations as well as who adopts cultural practices and why.
• Cultural relativism casts doubt on theories of the universality and objectivity of moral truth.
• Fundamentally, cultural relativism contends that there are just many cultural norms and no such thing as universal morality or ethics. Furthermore, a culture's code is just one among many, it is not unique.
No culture is superior to another in terms of morality, law, politics, and other such concepts, according to the cultural relativist point of view. Cultural relativism contends that moral behavior varies among cultures and that what is right in one may be wrong in another. No civilization is superior to another, simply different, according to cultural relativism. According to cultural relativism, a person's beliefs and actions should be considered in the context of their own culture. A group of people's shared ideologies, traditions, artefacts, and other traits are referred to as their culture.