Cultural relativism 1-2 Bernard Gert 'Avoidance of harm'
Michael brown cultural relativism 2.0 (2008)
Since early 1990 match of the effort has been to Reconcile cultural relativism with human rights. By Scholars like wilson 2001 and turner 1997.
Joseph ratzinger the Pope denounced moral relativism which is linked with cultural relativism. After 9/11 attacks American critics big and opposition against cultural relativism.
Many philosophers and political scientists have renounced cultural relativism based on logical or ethical grounds.like jarvie 1993
The concepts of cultural relativism during the 1914 and 50s has significantly changed in the anthropological world and humanity has become interconnected and the Global has changed.
Franz boas concept of cultural relativism redirected anthropology away from the evolutionary approach of Tyler and Morgan. Also away from racial theory.
His students including Ruth Benedict Margaret Mead and herskovits articulated relativist Dr in and after the World War 1 which undermined culturals periority of the west. Relativism provided search for alternatives to materialism and industrialized warfare. Stocking 1992
Axioms Of Cultural relativism
Each culture has a social world that reproduces itself through enculturation. enculturation is the process by which values emotional dispositions and behaviors are transmitted from one generation to the other. These values are perceived by the members of society as uniquely satisfying and superior to all others.
because there is no Universal yardstick therefore ethnography must interpret a culture on the basis of its own web of logic.
Ralph Linton questioned the cultural relativism when it denied ethical universals. He argued for recognising certain Ethical principles that ethnographers should observe throughout the world.
Kluckhohn concluded, "neither extreme relativism nor extreme absolutism is tenable as a guiding hypothesis for future emperical enquiry."
American anthropological Association criticized UN declaration on human rights in 1947. Some objections are not accepted today but some are still relevant. For example the declaration prioritised individual rights over the group rights. This is questionable even today.
Unethical practices done in the name of cultural relativism. Saudi Arabia claim that freedom to marry and to change one's religion or Western ideal which were unsuitable for Universal application.
Feminist Anthropoloist like Gayle Rubin essay called the traffic in women 1975. Explain how societies were not homogeneous and their work gender conflicts and inequalities. this exploitation of women and denial of their education health and domestic violence has also pushed back the idea of cultural relativism.
today ethnographers may be shocked at certain ritual or habits while studying a culture. Cultural relativism helps us understand these behaviour and avoid imposing our ethnocentrism.
Components of cultural relativism
suspending judgement until a belief or practice can be understood within its total context.
Very important and crucial for field work. Without this research cannot be complete.
This aspect of relativism is uncontested.
Cognitive or epistemological relativism
It means that members of different societies live in different and incommensurable knowledge world. Basically their ideas are radically different from our own and we cannot compare them.
It has been widely rejected by many Scholars on empirical grounds. Cognitive scientist have shown that many features of human cognition are universal and we have shared neural architecture. So they can be minor differences but no radical departure.
Ernest gellner 1985 has observed that " no anthropologist to my knowledge has come back from a field trip saying that their concepts are so alien that it is impossible to describe their land tenure their kinship system or the ritual.
But understanding the cognition of other communities is very important for an anthropologist to understand their systems.
Ethical or moral relativism.
The ost controversial area.
some argue that there is psychic unity of mankind which employs a shared morality. like societies everywhere hold that human life is sacred and cannot be taken without justification. But given the range of circumstances that qualify for justification, this view does not help much.
For example some societies actually believed that sorcery is real and The Sorcerer's can kill anyone. So they gave death punishment to the Sorcerer. It may be considered wrong because we know that sorcery is not real. But thinking from the perspective of the society, the Sorcerer is a real danger and leaving that person alive means danger to others as well. Will our society leave any terrorist free ?
The morality of the modern societies is also questionable with huge inequality hunger poverty war and destruction. Us atom bomb killed millions in an instant. Britishers allowed Indians to die in famine. Recently refugees were sent back from Europe.
Elvin hatch in his book history of anthropological relativism. Provides set of standards by which morality of other cultures can be judged. But it is also debatable.
Recently cognitive scientists psychologists biologists Neurologist. Have demonstrated that moral thinking is a hardwired Legacy in our brain. This makes it natural rather than cultural aspect of human behaviour. Just like the universal grammar of language. We can call it Universal moral grammar. Hauser 2006.
But again some moral values maybe at our core but there are so many variations of morals in human culture this approach is also not concrete in fieldwork and real situations.
classical relativism which had methodological cognitive and ethical components has been debited and it overstated difference between societies.
Michael brown provides cultural relativism 2.0
Institutions and practices must be understood first within their own context. But cross-cultural comparison can also be judiciously used for understanding broader human condition.
Stable societies provide human well being and expression of emotions and freedom. But that does not mean that particular practices of that culture are not dysfunctional.
all societies have diversities with in their behaviour and ideology. There are fault lines across gender social rank religion and so on. Therefore ethnographer should be reluctant to accept any custom as uncontested in the society just because it's prevalent.
Human beings are diverse but not infinitely diverse. Certain things are common. Therefore it is legitimate to study Universal aspects of human cognition, family life, sexual expression, ethical values and ideologies.
Cultural relativism is a set of Ideas Worth keeping although not as a comprehensive philosophy or Doctrine but as a rule of thumb or an intellectual tool.
Bidney has explained that as all cultures differ from each other it is not possible to have a universal judgement of values
As per Broom and Selznick, each group considers it's way of life the natural and best way. Strange groups, belefs or practices are treated with suspicion and hostility simply because they are strange. Intense identification with the familiar and the devaluation of the foreign is called ethnocentrism
Extreme ethnocentrism impedes cultural diffusion and acts as a barrier against cooperation between any two cultures
Even if a social evil is to be viewed in its true aspect it should be understood in its own cultural setting