Full Text


Stephen E. Brown

Subject Anthropology
Sociology » Sociology of Culture and Media

Key-Topics ethnocentrism, globalization

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Ethnocentrism is a belief that the norms, values, ideology, customs, and traditions of ones own culture or subculture are superior to those characterizing other cultural settings. The term was coined by William Graham Sumner in his Folkways (1906) and has long served as a cornerstone in the social analysis of culture. While ethnocentrism arguably is a universal phenomenon that facilitates cohesion and continuity at all levels of social organization, it provides the rationalization for attack on other cultures or subcultures in its more extreme forms. It may, for example, motivate criminalization of practices within subcultures or be used to justify going to war with other nation-states. Ethnocentrism is intricately tied to definitions of deviance wherein the deviant is seen as not only different, but also as morally inferior or even evil. Members of the in-group stereotype those in the out-group as ignorant, bad, or even subhuman and these characterizations provide the basis for culture conflict. Ethnocentrism falls on a continuum along which the more ethnocentric tend to hold to more absolutist or objectivist moral positions. That is, as ethnocentrism grows stronger, there is more acceptance of the notion that there is a single proper way to behave at all times and places. Conversely, cultural and moral relativism is associated with lesser degrees of ethnocentrism. The relativist ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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