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Cultural relativism is the study of the part that values play in shaping cultures in different societies.The idea behind cultural relativism is that our judgment of morality is squarely founded upon our exposure to certain norms which uphold specific values in preference to others. The truth is that these cultures develop their value system based on certain assumptions borne out of experiential wisdom.
The classification of cultures
Cultures are classified by studying them under various headings such as economic structure, religious beliefs and practices, political organization and moral standards. Scholars of world cultures and their communities of origin have placed these cultures in the order of their complexities and functionality. These two attributes however may not consistently correlate as some complex social structures have been known to be dysfunctional at making life equally comfortable for all members.
This therefore demonstrates the conflicts that exists in judging cultures especially in the lines of their standards of morality. In most communities, the judgment that determines which cultural practice is right is based on what works towards the desired values of that community. These desired values when assessed by an outsider may seem outrageously unorthodox. The society however manages to inculcated them into each members personal value system in order to create the harmony needed to perpetuate the culture.
Other scholars have extended this view to propose that even our perception of reality is bound by cultural upbringing since we explain the universe using languages which are a core creation of our cultures.
Ethnocentrism and cultural conditioning
Ethnocentrism is a mind set that creates the idea that a certain way of life is superior to others. It make the people who follow such a culture develop elements that perpetuate and entrench these beliefs amongst them. These elements may include myths, poems and sayings. The repercussions of this are not favorable because they influence members of the said community to impose their cultures to all others who do not fit into their group.
It is difficult to conclude that one culture is better than another unless we base our arguments on technological advancement. The reason for this is that, certain value systems preclude the more obvious basic advantages that are to be gained from the environment.
It is these kinds of value systems that define what practices can be allowed to take form. They form taboos and ritualistic trends. When firmly ingrained into the members of society these value systems can even condition the human psyche to react physically or rather involuntarily to the lack of their observance. This is what essentially defines cultural conditioning.
It is clear that the values held by each different culture create the foundations of their moral structure. The criterion used for choosing moral structures in different societies may not be consistent. Subsequently, given the relativistic nature of culture as described above, one would question the existence of a general platform for moral reference.
Taking up this stance implies that morality in itself necessitates uniformity from the entire human race. It would give the notion that morality should indeed be absolute. The reality however, is that we instead have universal and absolute values. Absolute values apply across all eras and communities while universal values are specific to different periods and cultures.
The best argument to this matter is that since cultures develop from certain strings of experiences in place and time, then moral codes should likewise follow suit to serve the purpose at the present scenarios. For instance, a community faced with drought might need to change their ideals concerning taboos that prohibit eating certain foods in order to secure that communities survival.