Aaron J Hudson Intro to Sociology Prof. Payne

Aaron J Hudson
Intro to Sociology
Prof. Payne
November 1st, 2005
The United States is categorized as a heterogeneous society. We contain a
multitude of cultures and sub-cultures that differ in religion, income, and race, just to
name a few characteristics. The diversity that exists here in the U.S., with regards to
some of these same characteristics, is unique in the sense that no other country can
compare to how diverse we really are. With the many different aspects of culture that
reside here, how can the United States be blamed for cultural imperialism? Why do
certain aspects of different societies here in the States crossover to other countries and
have such an impact on those societies? Why are we blamed for infusing our culture onto
other cultures as a result of this impact? Why is this imperialism considered a negative
aspect of societies? How about cultural ethnocentrism? Is it right for cultures and or
sub-cultures to judge other cultures different from there own, based on its own culture?
How does the practice of this idea have a negative effect on the judging culture? Using
these statements and questions posed, I am going to discuss how I feel that cultural
imperialism and cultural ethnocentrism can weaken a society.
Before going any further about the negative side to ethnocentrism, let’s note that
there is a positive side as well. Teaching children to believe that there country is the best
country is a form of positive ethnocentrism. Promoting the positive views of patriotism
to one’s country would also constitute as positive ethnocentrism. Back to the negative
side of ethnocentrism, there are various reasons why one would partake in this practice.
An individual may have been raised in such a culture that stressed his/her culture as
superior to all others. These beliefs may have been branded into the member’s wellbeing from birth. If one grows up in an environment where all they witness is ridicule
and condescendence upon any other race except their own, the individual will not know
any other way to act. Passed on from their ancestors, they will continue to judge other
cultures based on their own.
Now, imagine this idea on a larger scale. Now you have now one, but many
cultures and sub-cultures that practice cultural ethnocentrism. This culture grows and
grows impacting their views upon surrounding cultures. Eventually, these cultures will
conflict with others and may result in civil unrest. I’m taking this example to an extreme,
but there is a reason for this. No one said judging others did not come without
consequences. Being on the negative side of ethnocentrism could have a reverse effect
on the judging culture. That culture may ultimately alienate themselves to the point that
they will not only judge other cultures, but build a greater hate and anger towards them.
This build up of hate and anger can lead to internal and external breakdowns of societies
as a whole.
Not only could these negative feelings lead to societal breakdowns, the judging
culture’s alienation may lead to an empowerment to push or infuse their culture into
another nation. This is the practice of cultural imperialism. This could be used as a tool
to produce a homogenous global culture. Like I mentioned in my intro, the United States
have been accused of being a culturally imperialistic nation. But, why is that? How could
the U.S., which is a heterogeneous nation, create a homogenous global culture? It is
believed that culturally imperialistic nations force their styles, their fashions, their
music…their culture onto other nations. Is that really true? How can one nation actually
force their culture onto another nation? An example of this would be Germany with
Hitler and the Concentration Camps. The Natzi’s forced their culture onto the Jews.
Those who did not comply to change were murdered. So Germany, at the time, was
considered a very culturally imperialistic nation. Though this example is on the extreme
side, it effectively demonstrates how one nation can be imperialistic. In conclusion, this
act of imperialism can definitely weaken a society. Obviously, the culture or nation who
is the victim of such an act is not only weakened, but torn apart. This extreme act of
imperialism paints a negative outlook on the attacking nation as well. How cliché it may
sound, actions do speak louder than words and the murderous acts of the Natzi’s,
ultimately weakened their own society in the long run.
On the lighter side of cultural imperialism, let’s use clothing as an example.
Denim is an American creation, a westernized fashion that has now spread world-wide as
the most worn material made. How is this explained? Is the United States infusing part
of their culture onto another nation’s culture? The U.S. did not aim a gun at the members
of other nations and force them to wear denim. So, can the United States really be
accused of Imperialism? Or is it free market at its best? Was the popularity and demand
for denim clothing the reason why it spread so rapidly throughout the eastern world?
I believe I have clearly stated my opinions on the effects of cultural ethnocentrism
and cultural imperialism. I do believe both can weaken a society by changing the norm
in a society. Whether you’re judging another culture based on your own beliefs and
values or forcing those same beliefs and values onto another nation, you may be causing
unwanted or un-needed change.
Kendall, Diana. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Kentucky:
Thomson, Wadsworth, 2005.