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Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism Notes

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SOCY 200

______________________________________________________________ 1 THE SOCHE BUFF'S GAZETTE Professors Noh et al.___________________ _____________________ 2¢ ETHNOCENTRISM AND CULTURAL RELATIVISM When Socrates was condemned to death for raising too many philosophical questions he remarked to his accusers that "an unexamined life is not worth living." The world has since become safer for social and political speculation, yet even in this intellectually freer world, many people still doubt the wisdom of questioning established institutions. However, sociologists are professionally committed to questioning the benefit of respected institutions like the family and the harm of socially condemned activities like theft and prostitution. No wonder sociologists appear to be subversive to those who are still not convinced that Socrates was right and his accusers wrong. I like to think that if Socrates was alive today he would be a sociologist, and he would justify his choice of profession to suspicious critics by remarking that "an unexamined society is not worth living in." And I like to think that unlike fifth century Greeks, American students are willing to confront unconventional questions. If you need a reason for taking this course and if the example of Socrates is not sufficient, consider the ostrich. In his book, Further Fables for Our Time, James Thurber imagines a conference of ostriches concerned with the loss of their ability to fly. One of them remarks that humans can fly sitting down while ostriches cannot fly at all. "That may be," replies another, "but man is flying too fast for a world that is round and soon man will end up in a great rear-end collision and man will never know that what hit man from behind was man." Sociology is one way to protect our rear-ends. Exposure to the perspective and discourse of sociology helps to ensure that we are able to "see the forest for the trees." The point of a liberal education, to borrow another of Thurber's lines, is that "all men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why." The reason sociology is a required part of your liberal education program is because it contributes to the cultivation of the intellect. Like all the liberal arts, sociology liberates us from the provincialisms of time, place, and circumstance; sociology tends to make us less ethnocentric. The classic definition of ethnocentrism comes from W. G. Sumner's Folkways: "the view of things in which one`s own group is the center of everything and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it." Ethnocentrism is the ethnic-centered tendency to evaluate other cultures and forms of social organization in terms of one's own. It means that the ways of thinking and doing that we observe in other societies are measured and judged in terms of the ideas and norms prevailing in the society of which we are a part. Ethnocentrism is the name of the tendency to think that only other people are foreigners, never ourselves. [email protected] 10/31/2013 I'd Rather Be Studying_________ _____ [email protected] 10/31/2013 __________________________________________________________________
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