Difference Between Cultural Relativism and Ethnocentrism

Cultural Relativism vs Ethnocentrism

Cultural relativism and ethnocentrism are the two flip sides of one coin where both of these rather philosophical notions are intertwined. Ethnocentrism landed as a concept amongst different nations earlier than cultural relativism which got to be devised to counter ethnocentrism. And, the most significant feature related to these notions and ideas is the fact that both of these come with specific sect of followers which can be specific individuals and specific nations as well.

Cultural Relativism

Cultural relativism is that notion that allows to see the different habits, traits and values of an individual in the relevance of his or her cultural values. All the nations come up with their specific sects of cultural and ethnic values and norms. And, all such cultural values differ from one ethnic group or nationality to the other. Cultural relativism grants that cushion where no culture gets to be termed as superior or inferior one. All the values, norms and traits get to be seen in the cultural relevance where it being understood that one value appropriate for one specific culture can be inappropriate for the other. So, this very notion does not propagate becoming judgmental or harsh towards any specific cultural value and norms.


Ethnocentrism on the other hand is the extreme opposite of cultural relativism. The follower of this philosophy will happen not only to consider his or her culture the most supreme of all but that person will judge other cultures by comparing these to his or her specific culture. This notion falls in deep and sharp contrast to cultural relativism which focuses on the better and unbiased understanding of other cultures and the related values.

Cultural relativism is considered to be more constructive and positive conception as compared to ethnocentrism. It permits to see an individual’s habits, values and morals in the context of his or her cultural relevance not by comparing it to one’s own cultural values and by deeming these the most superior and greater of all.

  • Ted Wilson

    Difference between Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism is a fascinating consideration. I am a very liberal thinker (Liberal Arts Grad) and have travelled extensively and have lived in different cultures for various lengths of time. 1 year in England. 4 month durations over the past 7 years in Mexico. I lean towards supporting Cultural Relativism but tend to be selective. I abhor the “Class System” in England. I abhor the treatment of females in many Middle Eastern countries. The American fondness towards guns is to me distasteful. Bull Fighting in Spain to me cannot be supported by a Hemmingway attitude (Death in the Afternoon). I could go on and on but I hope that I am making a point on this discussion. Your replies are welcome.
    Mazatlan, Mexico