Cultural Relativism (Essay Sample)

Cultural Relativism


In the modern world, the position of cultural relativism is high. The modern society judges the morals; evil or good based on based on the society and not generally. The modern world, based on the cultural relativism, enacts a notion that ethical systems or moral position which is either the best or the worst do not exist. This paper discusses what cultural relativism is and its impact on the society, i.e., the pros and the cons. Cultural relativism is a theory that has shaped how the world views morals today, but it has got its pros and cons.

What is Cultural Relativism?

By definition, cultural relativism is the belief that a person’s conduct or morals are shaped by the society the person grew in. This is such that their practices, beliefs, and values when judged should be based on the person’s cultural backgrounds and not a comparison with another culture. The pioneer of cultural relativism is Franz Boaz (Brown, 20108). He established it in the 20th century in an anthropological research as an axiomatic. It was later adopted by his students. To synthesize various concepts by Boaz, various anthropologists adapted the term of his death.

The founder of the term believed in pervasiveness and the vastness of the connection between subspecies and the cultural sweep. He concluded that race has got no relationship with cultures. There are specific methodological and epistemological claims associated with cultural relativism. It should be noted, however, that whether or not the claims are necessary for a specific stance of ethics is debatable. Another thing to note is that cultural relativism is not moral relativism.

Examples of Cultural Relativism

Good examples of cultural relativism can be brought when a comparison between the Middle-East and Western cultures is made. In the Western culture, the upbringing of children makes them believe that to them; dogs are pets. In the Middle-East, for instance, China, dogs are taken as a source of food. Children grow up knowing this. Another example is the role of a woman in the society between the two cultures. Due to that, how women are treated in the two societies is completely different.

The Impact of Cultural Relativism

This paper introduced the topic by stating that it is a concept or a theory that the modern world has embraced and upheld. Many judgments on a person’s conduct are based on this. Here are the pros and the cons of cultural relativism.

Advantages of Cultural Relativism

Respect for all cultures

It is one of the biggest advantages of cultural relativism. With cultural relativism, all cultures and nations are respected universally (Navajocode, 2015). Earlier said, a person’s actions are judged based on their culture and not in comparison with another. All cultures are therefore given their place in the society. It is enough for a person to know what is right for them and stand by it. If another person views it differently, they will still respect it. This eliminates the issues of discrimination regarding a person’s cultural backgrounds.

Culture Preservation

The world has got its view of culture. Predominantly, the western culture is taken as the world’s standard culture. Many cultures to please this may tend to shift or to change to fit in. Traditions, as all know, are the foundation of all cultures. These traditions, with cultural relativism, do not have to change. They can stay and take their place in the society.

Excusable Actions

It can be time consuming and exhausting leave alone overwhelming with the world’s ideals. The most trivial action in the eyes of the world can raise unnecessary debates. Cultural relativism can lessen these debates by excusing such actions as cultural differences. It may seem a con, however, but it is an advantage of its own (Navajocode, 2015).

Strengthens Humanity

An “iron sharpens iron,” they say. When people put their differences together and accept each other as one, their individuality or humanity is strengthened. Giving everyone chances to establish their standards make them create stronger bonds with other people. The result is that through others, people can educate themselves (Lambardo, 2015).

Creation of niche expertise system

When there is an emphasis on cultural relativism, people can specialize in what they are best at. It should not be forgotten that ‘one man’s weakness is another man’s strength.’ Instead of focusing on the weaknesses of others, the society can emerge the strengths of people and build itself even more (Lambardo, 2015).

Disadvantages of Cultural Relativism

Non-excusable Actions

This theory can be misused by other cultures to appall actions that are harmfully simply because it is ‘culturally acceptable.’ Such extreme actions as child abuse, extreme violence, and domestic abuse can never be culturally acceptable (Navajocode, 2015). Other people, however, perform them and use the excuse of the theory to overlook them.

The Strangeness of the Good and Bad

It is the biggest drawback of cultural relativism. People don’t know what is right and what is wrong. No one, therefore, can deem what is morally wrong or correct because each individual has their own view (Navajocode, 2015).

Enhancement of the Notion that people are perfect

The truth is that people are very far from perfection. However, the theory corrupts people’s mind by making them think they are perfect. For that matter, no reforms for change would be meaningful (Lombardo, 2015). To a greater extent, cultural relativism supports backwardness and promotes no progress.


Cultural Relativism determines the judgment upon a person’s actions. It has got its own advantages in this diverse world. It has got its disadvantages too. Everything that has an advantage consequently carries a disadvantage. If the theory is well utilized with some exceptions, however, it can prove to be a vital tool for people to live in harmony in the world.


  1. Brown, M.F. (2008). Cultural Relativism. Retrieved from
  2. Lombardo, C. (2015). Cultural Relativism Pros and Cons. Retrieved from
  3. Navajocode (2015). 6 Serious Advantages and Disadvantages of Cultural Relativism. Retrieved from
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