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Encyclopedia of Social Problems

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Encyclopedia of Social Problems

Vincent N. Parrillo

Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.

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Cultural Relativism

Karen Cerulo

Cultural relativism is a methodological concept rooted in social theory. The term indicates that a society's beliefs, values, normative practices, and products must be evaluated and understood according to the cultural context from which they emerge. No society should be evaluated with reference to some set of universal criteria, and no foreign culture should be judged by the standards of a home or dominant culture. Based on these ideas, cultural relativists would never deem a particular thought or behavior to be “right” or “wrong.” Rather, they would argue that Tightness or wrongness is relative to a specified group or society. Cultural relativism can be traced to the writings of philosopher Immanuel Kant and, later, works by Johann Gottfried Herder and Wilhelm von Humboldt. These scholars defined the mind as a critical mediator of sensate experience. They argued that when the mind apprehends stimuli from the environment, it molds perceptions with ...

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