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Relativism and ethnocentrism

Define using current examples

Ethnocentrism entails the cultural or ethnic group egocentrism that is associated with a belief in the superiority of one’s group practices and values. Often, a group presumes that its manner of thinking on addressing criminal activities is collectively shared, and should be implemented by everyone else. Ethnocentrism generally evokes contempt and hostility towards individuals who are not part of the group Bizumic, 2015).For example, the United States’ policies on crimes advocate the increased severity of sentences, hence the great numbers of individuals held in their prisons. The US policy makers believe that with such corrective measures, the crime rates and recidivism rates can reduce. Such stringent policies have triggered an increase in several criminal activities such as hate crimes mainly associated with persons of color (Pratama, 2019).The basis of these hate crimes mainly results from misunderstanding others’ cultures.

Relativism infers that standards of rationality and morality vary substantially among cultures, and that there lacks a universal criterion for affirming which is most accurate .In essence, a particular group presumes that it would be unable to comprehend what other groups are doing and it would be rather difficult for it to evaluate and form conclusions as to whether that which is done by other groups is right. For instance, in the USA and England –  neo-liberal nations , the imprisonment rates are quite higher compared to  social democratic  nations such as Finland that have lower rates. Social democratic nations are also more equipped to deal with most challenges associated with ‘outsider’ crimes executed by illegal immigrants (Nelken, 2009). However, due to relativism, different nations are unable to comprehend whether the approach implemented by others’ is most effective.


Response to Enna Smith

I concur that an ethnocentric outlook has more to do with an individual’s predisposition to the culture and systems of others. As such one gives precedence to their culture using it as a standard for reference (Maeder and Susan, 2015).  I believe everyone is ethnocentric to some degree and there is a need to enforce one’s values on others. As such, it is imperative to comprehend the merits and risks of using a given systems definitions as the standard for an appropriate legal system.

Contrastingly, relativism purposes to assess a culture using its own principles instead of using the lens of one’s own culture. I agree that while it is important to have an open mind, the relativist view hinders objectivity in attempts to reconcile different aspects of culture. This could be the case when trying to replicate Europe’s incarceration policy in the US without understanding the circumstances that surround the model (Nelken, 2009). I posit that while it is important to take pride in one’s culture, objectivity for other systems should be regarded.









Bizumic, B. (2015). Ethnocentrism.

Maeder, E, M., & Yamamoto, S. (2015). Culture in the courtroom: Ethnocentrism and Juror Decision- Making.

Nelken, D. (2009). Comparative criminal justice: Beyond ethnocentrism and relativism.                                         European Journal of Criminology, 6(4), 291-311.

Pratama, R. (2019). Ethnocentrism and Bias Incidents: Is There a Common Thread?.                                 Culturalistics: Journal of Cultural, Literary, and Linguistic Studies, 3(1), 39-44.



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