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cultural relativism

Definition of Cultural Relativism

(noun) The view that a culture can only be understood and judged by the standards, behaviors, norms, and values within the culture and not by anything outside.

Examples of Cultural Relativism

  • Understanding why bullfighting is a practice in Spain (religious factors).
  • Understanding why individuals in some parts of Asia eat insects (subsistence strategy).
  • Understanding why American individuals place high value on individual success and material wealth (Protestant Reformation in Europe, producing Calvinism; Calvinist New World settlers).
  • Understanding why female genital mutilation is practiced in some cultures of sub-Saharan Africa (religion, family honor).

Cultural Relativism Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: cul·tur·al rel·a·tiv·ism

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈkʌlʧərəl ˈrɛlətɪˌvɪzəm/
  • British English – /ˈkʌlʧərəl ˈrɛlətɪvɪzm/

Usage Note

  • Plural: cultural relativisms

Additional Information

Related Terms


Works Consulted

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Cite the Definition of Cultural Relativism

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cultural relativism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved December 8, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/cultural-relativism/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

cultural relativism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/cultural-relativism/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cultural relativism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed December 8, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/cultural-relativism/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“cultural relativism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 8 Dec. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/cultural-relativism/>.