Ethnocentrism and Some Tips on How to Minimize It
Under some circumstances, ethnocentrism can have a survival value for the societies as it gives them confidence in the superiority of the nations and their way of life. However, nowadays, ethnocentrism is mainly considered as a negative tendency that can contribute to the worsening of the relations between states and development of the conflicts. Modern world requires understanding and cooperation between people and nations. Despite the fact that ethnocentrism represents a basis for uniting a society, the spread of tendency can cause misunderstanding, prejudice, and skirmishes between the nations. Thus, it is necessary to develop an approach that will minimize the role and impact of ethnocentrism in a society.
In general, ethnocentrism is defined as “the tendency to view the world through the lens of one’s own culture” (Baumeister and Vohs 314). In particular, individuals make an attempt to judge other values, attitudes, beliefs, and customs according to their cultural standards. The phenomenon of ethnocentrism occurs within the representatives of different societies, but the extent to which it expands may vary. As a result, ethnocentrism can be defined as a tendency to judge other cultures in comparison to the individual’s own culture and values (Hunt and Colander 82). It also represents a belief of a group of people that their way of life is superior compared to the other nations. At the same time, some of the scholars underline that ethnocentrism helps distinguish one culture from another and provides clear characteristics of the various cultural identities (Andersen and Taylor 121). It is determined by the fact that while people do not accept other values and standards, they preserve national heritage.
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The term ethnocentrism was first introduced by William Graham Sumner in 1906 (Baumeister and Vohs 314). According to Sumner, ethnocentrism represents “the tendency to believe that one’s society or culture is the center of all others and is the basis for judging other groups” (Baumeister and Vohs 314). Besides, the scientist mentioned that ethnocentrism contributed to the establishment of the idea that one nation could be superior to other societies. Further researchers expanded the concept. For instance, they considered the possibility that people who had a high opinion of their group traditionally treated the representatives of other groups negatively (Baumeister and Vohs 314). More recent studies indicate that the proclamation of one’s superiority does not necessarily implies the negative attitude towards other nations and groups of people. In particular, Brewer states that individuals can have a positive attitude towards their culture and other cultures, even when there are differences in values, beliefs, and standards (DeLamater, Myers, and Collet 456). The positive impact of ethnocentrism was studied on the examples of the societies in Africa, North America, and Asia. In general, ethnocentrism does not necessarily mean prejudice and hostility. It can also represent a positive evaluation of a particular society.
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Among the positive effects of ethnocentrism, there are promotion of nationalism and patriotism, facilitation of the social relations within a particular group of people, encouragement of social solidarity, preservation of national heritage, and protection of the culture. At the same time, the concept has a number of negative consequences. First, ethnocentrism contributes to the establishment of the boundaries between the groups of people. As a result, it facilitates the occurrence of the conflicts and skirmishes on the cultural or religious basis. In addition, ethnocentrism can be influenced by the political or economic reasons. Second, it creates obstacles to the integration of an individual in other cultural environments. A person tends to preserve national values and standards and refuses to experience general social changes. Third, ethnocentrism can also decrease the processes of national development. Under the processes of integration and globalization, countries have begun to exchange ideas and share basic values. However, ethnocentrism denies any attempts to incorporate other cultural peculiarities. Fourth, while ethnocentrism foresees the distinction between the in-group and one or more out-groups, it promotes hostile attitude towards other cultures (DeLamater, Myers, and Collet 456). For example, the out-groups are mainly considered to be weaker and faithless. Thus, people have a negative image of other societies. Fifth, ethnocentrism can result in discrimination as representatives of in-groups often treat members of out-groups in an unfair and disadvantageous manner. One of the examples of discrimination includes the simple process of social categorization. In addition, ethnocentrism can have a divisive force. For instance, at the end of the 20th century, a number of countries, such as Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the former Yugoslavia, experienced the conflicts between the opposing religious groups within the borders of the countries. The internal differences not only influenced the matter of state within those countries, but had an impact on the foreign affairs, as well. Thus, the religious aspects of ethnocentrism can be worsened by the political constituents and make the conflicts more complex and rebellious.
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According to the scholars, the most favorable conditions for the development of ethnocentrism include insecurity and economic depression (Hunt and Colander 82). For example, one of the most known facts of ethnocentrism represented by Nazi doctrine of the German superiority over other nations was developed under the circumstances of severe depression. Moreover, sociologists explain the occurrence of ethnocentrism as result of the development of totalitarianism in the socialization process (Kimmel and Aronson 258). The other routs of ethnocentrism include the consequences of the modernization processes that take place nowadays. According to the scholars, ethnocentric individuals feel that they cannot meet the demand of the changing world and need to introduce their way of adaptation (Kimmel and Aronson 258). As a result, people consider violence to be the only way of receiving attention. However, the most common cause of ethnocentrism is the fact that individuals have the greatest awareness and information about their culture. Consequently, they believe that the norms, values, and standards of their culture are universal and should be applied by other societies.
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Ethnocentric reactions to differing views can include anger, shock, and even amusement (Hellriegel and Slocum 234). According to scholars, one of the most effective ways to overcome the occurrence of ethnocentrism is to strive for the establishment of the “third language” that enables negotiations between home and alien cultures (Smith 78). However, in order to minimize these and other effects of ethnocentrism, there is a necessity to apply a number of methods. First, there is a necessity to introduce integration processes in the cultural environments. Such approach will reduce the differences in cultures of various groups and increase the interactions between them. At the same time, the integration should be aimed at outlining positive aspects of the cultures, rather than creating new identities. For example, Latinos and African Americans have been successfully integrated into the US environment. Second, the representatives of in-group should eliminate key barriers in regard to other cultures. In particular, all members of a community have to enjoy equal rights and treatment. Third, people need to develop an in-depth understanding of the community. Awareness of other ethnic and religious peculiarities ensures that people will develop respect towards other nations. At the same time, it should be noted that often ethnocentrism foresees the acquisition of knowledge about other societies in order to confirm the superiority of one nation over another. Fourth, the addressing of the problem of ethnocentrism can involve economic and political reforms aimed at ensuring equal treatment of all representatives of the society.
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In addition to the given methods, every person can work on minimizing ethnocentrism. For instance, individuals can learn more about other nations and countries. Instead of the defending the superiority of the native culture, it is important to pay attention to the views, beliefs, and cultural heritage of others. In addition, a person has to be mindful in considering if a certain aspect can be treated as intercultural and result in escalation of the relations between people. Rather than evaluate other cultures, a person should try to make a contact with its representative and experience its environment. Finally, one of the simplest ways of understanding a culture is a conversation with its members. People should be respectful, avoid making assumptions and judgments about others. If representatives of out-groups act different, it does not mean that they make a mistake. It is necessary to remember that there is no quick and easy way to eliminate the phenomenon of ethnocentrism. This process requires much efforts and ability to negotiate different views.
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As a result, ethnocentrism is mainly associated with the negative aspects, such as creating of barriers between cultures or leading to the occurrence of conflicts. Diversity, which has become an integral part of modern society, is considered to represent a source of a problem to ethnocentric individuals. All of the methods that can help minimize the negative impact of ethnocentrism are aimed at changing the outlook of the ethnocentric individuals. It is determined by the fact that they need to develop an ability to assimilate a new view on different cultures.