What Is Cultural Relativism Theory

The founder of the theory of cultural relativism is considered to be the American anthropologist Melville Herskovic (1895-1963), whose concept is formulated in the work “Cultural Anthropology” (1948).

Herskowitz resolutely challenged the “three determinisms”: racist theories of culture; Extreme forms of geographical determinism (explaining the whole diversity of culture only by geographical environment); Economic determinism, according to which the rule of production of material wealth is of defining importance. He disagreed with the discussion of indigenous cultures as part of a unified world-historical process that also has a common ascending direction. According to Herskovic, there is no single pattern of world cultural development, the model of which is considered to be the Western European model. The world-historical process consists of cultures with different directions of development; According to the existence of different types of cultures, there are different criteria for progress, so the notion of progress is relative, subjective. Moreover, in some cases, the development of a traditional culture is followed by the death (destruction) of this culture in a technical (Western) way. Herskowitz was particularly critical of the Morganian periodization of world history – savagery, barbarism, civilization – because he saw in it the Eurocentric confrontation of “primitive” and “civilized” peoples. According to the existence of different types of cultures, there are different criteria for progress, so the notion of progress is relative, subjective. Moreover, in some cases, the development of a traditional culture is followed by the death (destruction) of this culture in a technical (Western) way. Herskowitz was particularly critical of the Morganian periodization of world history – savagery, barbarism, civilization – because he saw in it the Eurocentric confrontation of “primitive” and “civilized” peoples. According to the existence of different types of cultures, there are different criteria for progress, so the notion of progress is relative, subjective. Moreover, in some cases, the development of a traditional culture is followed by the death (destruction) of this culture in a technical (Western) way. Herskowitz was particularly critical of the Morganian periodization of world history – savagery, barbarism, civilization – because he saw in it the Eurocentric confrontation of “primitive” and “civilized” peoples. The development of traditional culture is followed by the death (destruction) of this culture in a technical (Western) way. Herskowitz was particularly critical of the Morganian periodization of world history – savagery, barbarism, civilization – because he saw in it the Eurocentric confrontation of “primitive” and “civilized” peoples. The development of traditional culture is followed by the death (destruction) of this culture in a technical (Western) way. Herskowitz was particularly critical of the Morganian periodization of world history – savagery, barbarism, civilization – because he saw in it the Eurocentric confrontation of “primitive” and “civilized” peoples.

Herskowitz used two interpretations of the concept of culture. In general, he defined culture as a man-made environment. Such an understanding was based on his study of the origins of culture and the early stages of its development. In his analysis of modern cultures, however, he referred to the psychological definition of culture and defined it as the way of behavior and thinking of the people who make up a given society.

Each culture has a unique, traditionally defined model. It is manifested by a specific value system characteristic of all peoples that is difficult to relate to other peoples value systems. Herskovic believed that all cultures have a root, the only characteristic characteristic for them – “cultural focus”. For modern European-American culture this is the development of technology, for medieval Europe – the domination of religious ideology, and so on.

Structurally, the researcher singled out several aspects in culture. These were: the technical means by which man obtains from the natural environment what is necessary for existence and daily activities; Economic system for their distribution; Social and political organization, philosophy of life, religion, art, language, system of sanctions.

In search of patterns of evolutionary development, Herskowitz challenged the study of different cultures at one time or another. He paid great attention to the analysis of the mechanism of cultural change. According to Herskovic, culture is both stable and changeable. Absence of change means the death of culture, on the other hand, the disintegration of sustainable structures of culture in the interests of rapid change (e.g., technological growth) means its degradation, its loss of identity.

According to American anthropological tradition, Herskowitz distinguished between the concepts of “culture” and “society.” “Culture is the way of life of people, while society is the organized interaction mechanism of the individuals who follow this way of life. Simply put: society is made up of people, and the way of life chosen by them is culture,” Herskovic wrote.

The researcher called the process of assimilation of cultural experience inculturation. This was one of the main concepts of his concept. Inculturation – is the process of assimilation of a particular culture by an individual. Its main content lies in the assimilation of the rule of thought and action, the model of behavior characteristic of this culture.

Herskowitz distinguished inculturation from socialization, which, in his view, is the process by which a child assimilates a universal human rule of activity.

In inculturation, the researcher distinguished two levels: childhood and maturity. At the first level, the main task of a person is to master cultural norms, etiquette, tradition, religion. At this time the individual only assimilates cultural experience, he is deprived of the opportunity to choose or evaluate. According to Herskovic, “In childhood, man is more of an instrument than a player.” The first level is the main mechanism that ensures the stability of the culture.

The main sign of the second level of inculturation is that a person has the opportunity to choose and reject. It is possible to discuss, judge, discuss, which can result in changes in culture.

Thus, the first stage of inculturation ensures the stability of the culture, and the second stage – changes, alternative opportunities. Herskovic developed the relativistic criteria of cultural norms, proposed by R. By Benedict. “The final determination of what is normal and what is abnormal depends on the organization of cultural relations,” he wrote. Behavioral stereotypes, forms of marriage, morals that do not conform to European-American standards are perfectly normal for one culture or another, such as polygamy, polyandry, the use of drugs for ritual purposes, and so on.

The main idea of ​​cultural relativism is to recognize the equality of cultural values ​​created by different peoples. This obviously means a principled rejection of ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism. “recognition” of the law, justice, beauty can be as much a manifestation of a much culture there is a tolerance of expression “.

herskovitsi referred to the so-called” universals “the existence of a variety of people in a variety of ways can be revealed, but are essentially universal.

Herskowitz was one of the first scholars to express the need to pay more attention to the organization of human life in non-Western cultures, to apply the achievements of different peoples (philosophy of nature, various forms of medicine with a millennial history, other aspects) in modern industrial In society.

When working on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the creation of the United Nations, Herskovic and his group presented an alternative version of the Declaration, emphasizing the fact that the Declaration should take into account different understandings of rights and freedoms in different cultures. It is true that this view was not taken into account, but the further development of world processes revealed the correctness of Herskovic’s view.

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