Defined as a universal syndrome of attitude and behaviour that entails the tendency to view the world from the perspective of one’s culture (Brown, 2003), ethnocentrism has profound impact on individuals, society and multinational corporations.
This is because an entrenched belief in one’s cultural superiority over the others determines the forms of relationship an individual extends towards people of different cultures. However, research abides in the fact that everyone is ethnocentric and it is almost impossible to avoid being ethnocentric.
After watching Dream keepers: A Spirit Journey into Aboriginal Australia by Harvey Arden, what rings into the mind is the effect of ethnocentrism on an individual and society. Total neglect and marginalization encompass the daily lives of the aborigines because of the ethnocentric belief that their culture are not only inferior, but they are not fit enough to join the Australian mainstream society.
The effect of ethnocentrism on an individual is precipitated by false assumptions about cultural differences. It reinforces wrong assumptions and premature judgements on people of different cultures and therefore gives a vague feeling of superiority. Through such a wrong evaluation, an individual misses important aspects of life because ethnocentrism tends to evaluate others by what we are best at.
According to Sanders (2002), “membership in an ethnic group is typically evaluated in terms of one or more observable characteristics (such as language, accent, physical features, or religion) that are regarded as indicating common descent.” Furthermore, it affects interpersonal relationship an individual develops with a person of a different culture.
At the society levels, ethnocentrism deters the interaction among people of different cultures, ethnic groups, gender and age. Chirot and Seligman (2001) indicate that ethnocentrism has impacted largely on ethnic conflicts, wars and patterns of voting. It is pointed out as a major impediment to societal cohesion and peaceful co-existence among people of different cultures.
According to Rogers and Laitin (1998), “ethnocentrism can be in-group favouritism or out-group hostility.” This is a pointer to the fact that societal problems such as ethnic cleansing, colonialism and racism are products of ethnocentrism of out-group hostility. Multiple forms of discrimination against members of different societies have denied people their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, governmental neglect and group marginalization are directly linked to ethnocentrism.
In multinational corporations, ethnocentrism presents the biggest challenge in diversity management and is a determinant to consumer choice. In the understanding that appreciating diversity in organizations demand that each individual form a bigger part of the business entity and must work together knowing that their objectives and goals are far greater than their differences, ethnocentrism deters collective appreciation and the sharing of common purpose.
Despite being a major component of an organization’s life and forms the very foundation of organization’s stability, diversity management remains a challenge to multinational firms because of the premature judgment of an individual’s or group’s superiority. Furthermore, it negatively effects communication, which is as a key success factor in organizational climate and it has been directly linked to job satisfaction, performance, and overall organizational effectiveness.
Consumers have become complex the choices of their products. Driven by cultural beliefs and ethnocentrism, consumers would easily shun a product because of perceived cultural inferiority of country of origin. A car manufactured in China would definitely not expect good reviews in the United States. In summary, it can be discerned from the above discussions that knowingly or unknowingly, ethnocentrism plays a critical role in the relationship we develop and the choices we make.
Brown, D.E. (2003). Ethnicity and ethnocentrism; Are they natural? In Race and ethnicity: An anthropological focus on the United States and the world (ed.) R. Scupin. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Chirot, D. and Seligman, M.E.P. (2001). Ethno political Warfare: Causes, Consequences, and Possible Solutions. Washington DC: American psychological Association
Rogers, R. and Laitin, D.D. (1998). Ethnic and National Violence. Annual Review of Sociology. 24:423-452.
Sanders, J. M. (2002). Ethnic Boundaries and Identity in Plural Societies. Annual Review of Sociology. 28:327-57.