Ethnocentrism and relativism are ultimatistic points of view in the study of the diversity of cultural forms.
Relativism: every culture must be perceived on the basis of its values and norms. Ethnocentrism: "My culture is the best, and the rest are not-so-great."
These two approaches of culture understanding cannot be considered out of touch with each other. Their isolated use holds the dangers of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. Ethnocentrism is the disposition toward judgment other cultures from the position of one's own. Estimation of all phenomena of the surrounding world based on the preferences of their ethnic group is a universal property inherent in all societies and social associations. Every nation in some way feels superior to all the others. Ethnocentrism makes its culture a standard with which all other cultures are measured. Accordingly, the latter will be good or bad, high or low, correct or false. Ethnocentrism generates such concepts as "elected people", "true doctrine", "master race", "backward peoples", "primitive culture", "rough art", causes the denial of foreign culture values and turns into cultural self-isolation and interethnic conflicts.
At the same time, ethnocentrism is a universal human reaction that extends to all social communities and almost all individuals. Groups which contain clearly expressed manifestations of ethnocentrism tend to be more viable than the other tolerant to other cultural groups. Ethnocentrism unites the group, justifies sacrifice and martyrdom for the sake of its well-being; there is no patriotism without ethnocentrism.
Ethnocentrism is a necessary condition for national self-awareness. In most cases, Ethnocentrism manifests itself as tolerable forms, and its basic attitude is: I prefer my customs, although I admit that some customs and dispositions of other cultures can be better at something. Speaking about the significant role that ethnocentrism plays in the processes of group cohesion around certain cultural samples, one should also note its conservative role, the negative impact on the development of culture. Indeed, if our culture is the best in the world, then why we should improve it, change, and even more so borrow something from other cultures?
Ethnocentrism can also be an instrument that acts against the internal structure of society. Thus, privileged groups consider their society to be the best and fairest and are eager to inspire it of other groups, thereby raising the level of ethnocentrism. Extreme manifestations of ethnocentrism - nationalism and xenophobia (Greek Xenos - stranger, Phobos - fear) - are possible as contempt for other views, traditions, customs, culture of other societies. In practice, the implementation of ethnocentric views often led to the extermination and destruction of cultures. The well-known anthropologist B.K. Malinovsky wrote: "The same fantastic eagerness to exterminate, eradicate and burn everything that shockingly affects our moral, hygienic or simply provincial sensitivity is everywhere. Everywhere we can see the same ignorant, stupid misunderstanding that every feature of culture, every custom and beliefs are of some value, perform a social function, have a positive biological significance."
Cultural relativism (Latin relativus - relative) is the position according to which culture is understood only on the basis of an analysis of its values in its own context. In this case, members of one social group cannot understand the motives and values of other groups, because they judge from the standpoint of their own culture. Each element of culture corresponds with the characteristics of the cultural system of which part is it.
Elements of a separate culture are considered correct and generally accepted, because they have proven themselves in this system. There is no value, ritual or other features of a given culture that can be fully understood if they are treated separately or in comparison with similar elements of other cultures. Cultural relativism promotes a better perception of the differences between cultures. But it can also lead to misunderstanding and conflicts between people and nations.
Cultural relativism. If the members of one social group consider the cultural customs and norms of other social groups only from the point of view of ethnocentrism, then it is very difficult to come to understanding and interacting. Therefore, there is an approach to other cultures that softens the effect of ethnocentrism and allows us to find ways to cooperate and mutually enrich the cultures of different groups.
One of such approaches is cultural relativism. It is based on the assertion that members of one social group cannot understand the motives and values of other groups if they analyze these motives and values in the light of their own culture. In order to reach understanding, comprehend another culture, it is necessary to relate its specific features to the situation and the peculiarities of its development. Each cultural element must be related to the special aspects of the culture of which it forms a part. The value and significance of this element can only be considered in the context of a particular culture. Warm clothes are good in the Arctic, but ridiculous in the tropics. The same can be said about other, more complex cultural elements and the complexes that they make up. Cultural complexes relating to women's beauty and the role of women in society are different in different cultures. It is important only to find approaches to these differences not from the point of view of the dominance of "our" culture, but from the point of view of cultural relativism, i.e. recognizing the possibility of other interpretations of cultural patterns that are different from "our" ones for other cultures and realizing the reasons for such modifications. This point of view, naturally, is not ethnocentric, but it helps the approchement and the development of different cultures.
It is necessary to understand the basic thesis of cultural relativism, according to which certain elements of a particular cultural system are correct and generally accepted because they have proved themselves well in this system; others are considered incorrect and unnecessary because their application would give rise to painful and conflicting consequences only in a given social group or only in a given society. The most rational way of development and perception of culture in society is the combination of both features of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism, when an individual, feeling proud of the culture of his group or society and expressing adherence to the basic patterns of this culture, at the same time is able to understand other cultures, the behavior of members other social groups, recognizing their right to exist.