Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

The use of one's own culture as a basis for judging other cultures. Generally, ethnocentrism assumes the superiority of one's own culture and is an inevitability, given that most people are reared in and are familiar with only one culture. Ethnocentrism may serve positive functions for society; for example, it encourages and reinforces group solidarity. But it also can have a negative impact. Ethnocentrism discourages rapid assimilation into another culture and, in its most negative aspects, can contribute to racial and ethnic prejudices, foster conflict, and provide a rationale for suspicion and hostility in dealings with outsiders.

Steven D. Glazier

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