Chapter 3: Culture & Society

Compare and contrast ethnocentrism and cultural relativism

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Culture is defined as the part of the society which the society cannot do without. It is made up of the values, the symbols, the norms, and the material goods that are given a society for its wellbeing. Society refers to a group of individuals who live together in a given area and follow a particular code of conduct that govern that place. It is that system of interrelationship that connects a group of individuals into one. Adler & Peter (2000) cultural relativism refers to the ability that makes it possible for us to perceive various habits, traits and values of a person relative to his or her cultural values. It is whereby a society is judged by its own standards. On the other hand, ethnocentrism is the extreme opposite of cultural relativism. It is whereby one judges the culture of other societies based on the standards of his own society (Adler & Peter, 2000).

Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism can be compared and contrasted in the following ways. To begin with, we will have a detailed view on the comparisons and how they contrast with one another. Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism are means by which the society and the culture that they practice are judged. This means that they are the basic ways of measurement for these values of the society and their culture. In contrast, Cultural relativism refers to the understanding of various cultures and beliefs of a different society, whereas Ethnocentrism is the strong conviction that one society and its practiced culture is the best while all the other cultures are wrong, according to some individual. What a society practices might be viewed as offensive by another society. The stance that sociologists have strived to adopt is that a culture of a particular society has to be studied in terms of its own meanings and values. They have tried to avoid the negative issues that come with ethnocentrism and they are advocating for appreciation and the uniqueness of different cultures for what they are and for what they stand for. They also propose that the society should avoid all tendencies to engage in cultural relativism. Their stance has been exemplified by Horace Miner’s seminal article entitled “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” which shows that it is possible for smaller subcultures to be formed and co-exist within a broader dominant culture in a given community or society.

Chapter 4: Socialization

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Describe how people learn gender roles and elaborate on the roles of the family and the media in this learning process.

Gender roles are both personal and cultural. They refer to a set of social and behavioral virtues which are considered appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social set up. They are influenced by behavior and personality between genders which arises as a result of cultural and social factors and to some extent by biological and physiological factors. They determine how people should reason, talk, dress, and interact within themselves and the society in general. They are shaped mainly through the process of learning through various agents of socialization (Kleck, 1991). These agents include the following: schools, peer relationships, family and guardians, religion and the mass media which play a great role throughout the lifespan of a person. Mass media plays its role through television and videos where a research carried out by social scientists has shown that most children in America spend hundreds of hours watching television and videos annually. The final conclusions gained from this research stated that the habit of watching television is not an inherently low- level intellectual activity.

This essay highlights the comparisons and differences between Freud and Chodorow’s theories of development of gender identity. In accordance with the theory of Freud, the identity of a person centers on the presence or absence of a penis. However, Chodorow argues that girls never lose their maternal attachment while boys develop masculinity and lose their emotional ties. This eventually leads to enhanced analytical thinking but reduces understanding of their own emotions and feelings. Chodorow’s theory also reverses Freud’s theory on the process of socialization which focuses on the loss of femininity rather than masculinity. This implies that Chodorow centers on the loss of masculinity as opposed to the loss of femininity.

Chapter 7: Conformity, Deviance, and Crime

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How do sociological theories differ from biological and psychological explanation of deviance?

Deviance can be defined as the process by which individuals through their actions and behavior violate societal norms and formally enacted rules. It is the nonconformity to a given set of norms that are generally accepted by a majority of individuals in a given community or society. Sociological theories differ from biological and psychological definition and explanation of the term deviance in the following ways. Sociologists such as Durkheim argued that deviance was integral to a well-functioning society because it outlined to others what was unacceptable. He therefore proposes that deviance should not be eliminated from the society but be kept within acceptable limits.  The Biological View of Deviance is that it is a natural process that begins at an early age which results in deviance in physical or biological features of an individual while the psychological view of deviance relates the vice of criminality with particular types of personalities of given individuals in the society. These individuals are withdrawn from the rest of the society and they are also emotionless. Their pleasure is aroused when they engage in activities that are violent in nature (Kleck, 1991). Psychologists also propose that all these individuals have a common and specific type of psychological characteristics. The major difference in the explanation of deviance between sociological, biological and psychological theories is that sociological theories do not advocate for the elimination of deviance from the society. This is because it can be used to define the acceptable actions in the society and those that are not acceptable.

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