What is Cultural Relativism, Meaning, Philosophy and Examples

cultural relativism

Our present-day world consists of 195 countries with 6,500 different spoken languages. Hence, it is quite obvious to find diversified cultures and ethnicities as a whole. However, globalization has made its unfortunate impact on this universal cultural diversity to some extent. 

But even in this span of rapid growth and development, we can find different cultures and religions coexisting. For the peaceful persistence of this immense cultural diversity, cultural relativism is extremely crucial. Let us now know what exactly cultural relativism is and its importance in the present-day world.

What is Cultural Relativism?

In order to unveil the importance of cultural relativism in society, we need to know what cultural relativism means. Cultural relativism refers to the act of respecting and understanding the traditions and customs of other people by considering their cultural point of view. 

As we all know that it is human nature to believe one’s ideologies as the best. Similarly, people following different cultures presume that their own native customs are superior to anyone else’s. Thus it has been truly saying,

“If anyone, no matter who was given the opportunity of choosing from amongst all the nations in the world he would inevitably, after careful consideration of their relative merits, choose that of his own country”

Cultural relativism strictly opposes such kind of discrimination based on ethnocentricity. By following cultural relativism one can self analyse the objective of other cultures and hence, circumvent judging individuals.

Why is Cultural Relativism Important?

  • Cultural relativism allows an individual to understand that judging others based on their own cultural context is not ideal. It helps us to evaluate the customs and beliefs of others from the point of view of their culture.
  • Practising cultural relativism could aid the minority/colonized cultures to gain their individuality. We have read that in ancient times several minority cultures were oppressed by certain dominant groups. This is often followed in present days too, especially in the rural areas. Cultural relativism will allow these minorities to freely to express and follow their own cultures.
  • Lastly, cultural relativism will promote a society where equality exists. Its people will have respect for each other, no matter what cultural beliefs they hold. Altogether cultural relativism aims at creating a society where people do not judge each other and human cultures remain preserved.

Some Examples of Cultural Relativism

  • We all are familiar with the fact that food habits vary from one place to another. For example, Americans breakfast commonly consists of stacks of flapjacks and bacon which is quite different from Thailand’s fish, pork and rice dish. Similarly, Iranians prefer Naan bread with butter and jam or sometimes Halim too unlike Philippines local fruit and Sinangag platter. These groups with widely varying food habits may find each other’s food practices weird or exotic.
  • In certain countries wearing partially covered clothes is normal while in cultures like Islam fully covered clothes are preferred. Cultural relativism motivates people towards holding equal respect for dressing habits followed in different cultures.
  • In France sipping a glass of wine at the dinner table is fine, even children are allowed to do so. In other countries, this might sound unnatural. Cultural relativism keeps a person away from such discriminatory.


It was said by Richard Rorty,

“Truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with”

Its truly said because, our likes, dislikes, interests and contempt all are restricted within our cultural boundaries. The concept of equality is somewhere still missing in this aspect. We fail to understand or rather accept the fact that an individual has the right to express their own views. Hence, it is necessary for all of us to acknowledge cultural relativism in our life. By doing so, we will move ahead towards building a stronger and unbiased society.

On the other hand, blindly following cultural relativism will restrain people from putting forward any kind of opinion regarding others. If that happens then there remains a probability of people losing their say in certain crucial aspects of life. Hence, 

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