Cultural Relativism And Its Impact On Society Essay

Cultural Relativism And Its Impact On Society Essay

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Anthropologically speaking, individuals and society cannot function without the other. In order to study past and present cultures and societies, anthropologists, like Ruth Benedict, use a theory called cultural relativism. Benedict describes three different societies and the influence they either receive or do not receive from their society along with certain abnormalities that occur throughout other cultures. She describes and studies these cultures without prejudices influencing her research.
Being a cultural anthropologist herself, Ruth Benedict used the approach known as cultural relativism. This approach is studying without prejudice and she believed that the rights and wrong of a society could not be compared to her own. Anthropologists are not able to fully study a culture if their own values and morals are clouding their judgment. Benedict uses a type of cultural relativism specifically referred to as descriptive relativism. This theory states that “human and social psychological characteristic are produced by culture.” According to Melford E. Spiro, this approach states that there is variability of several characteristics across human groups and those characteristics are relative to cultural variability (Spiro). This means that every culture has a different set of attributes and no two cultures are the same. In this case, Benedict and other anthropologists who use cultural relativism use their unbiased opinions to study other cultures in order to relate their findings to the rest of the world. While every society has its own values and morals, letting those ideas bias our opinion of other cultures is unethical. When studying a certain culture, anthropologists cannot seek out a universal attribute to try and connect eve...


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Benedict emphasizes that every culture is different but in order for every society to survive, it needs the individuals living there to contribute. Because every culture is different, the three researched in Patterns of Culture had differing cultural characteristics due to cultural variability. Abnormalities come along within every society and those that are present in today’s culture may not have been that big of an abnormality in the past. With time, human and cultural characteristics change and develop because every culture evolves. In order to correctly research a culture and the individuals within a society, prejudices and prior knowledge of any culture cannot influence our opinions. Benedict was a pioneer in this approach and because of this she produces an argument that can influence the world to throw our prejudices away when studying other cultures.

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