Cultural Relativism and Absolutism Western

And what constitutes a successful marriage or life partnership is also quite culturally relative. Jazas culture defines stability and a lack of divorce as successful, and if these are the benchmarks of success, than traditional Mongolian society is superior. Sam and defenders of Western values, of course, would vehemently disagree and state that even if divorce is easier, and more mistakes are made in a society characterized by autonomy, this is innately better. But even our own cultural critics bemoan the current state of the family, and measure its success based upon the divorce rate — at least, if a family is poor. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, for example, in his essay “Defining Deviancy Down” automatically assumes that having a two-parent family is better for children [at least, poor, minority children], as defined by certain standards of success and social factors, such as the prevalence of crime: “in 1965, having reached the conclusion that there would be a dramatic increase in single-parent families [with the change in welfare legislation], I reached the further conclusion that this would in turn lead to a dramatic increase in crime” (Moynihan 414). In his belief structure, a lack of certain measurements of success and nuclear structures constitute a failure in a way that might be profoundly offensive to comfortable, middle-class single mothers of any race raising happy, well-adjusted children — measurements of failure that might not be as evident in children from middle-class homes with a single, wealthy parent, either.

The fact that the single-parent families spoken of by Moynihan are by definition, as welfare recipients, more apt to suffer poverty may indicate that their difficulties reside in other societal factors, and an increase in crime might have other social causes that merely correlated with the change in welfare legislation.

Moynihans invocation of changes in welfare legislation and a rise in single parent families implies again, what is successful, what is deviant is obvious — yet not so many years ago, to have a daughter who did not marry and worked outside the home, to have a son who was gay, or to have a child who did not produce grandchildren might be read as deviant, and morally wrong, but societal standards have changed, and despite William Bennetts likely rage at this fact, the deviant products might say that they would not wish their lives to have been different (Bennett 534). In fact, they might say that their lives are celebrations of the types of individual autonomy that is quintessentially American, even though Bennett takes certain cultural indicators of success and failures as self-evident.

The assumption that single parenthood and the current welfare system produces poverty, rather than is merely correlated with poverty because single parents might be more likely to be African-American, discriminated against because of their race (or because they are single parents and female), and feel excluded from society is taken as a given, as seen in Charles Krauthammers later essay “Defining Deviancy Up:” where he says “as for poverty and the various social pathologies associated with single-parenthood knows that afflicts is the right word — more than one-quarter of all American children” (Krauthammer 422). Buy it may be our assumptions about deviancy that must change, and adopting a nonjudgmental attitude in society, school, and even to certain cultural modes of expression and speech is required to create a better America, as Sam must question his own assumptions about what makes a meaningful life. Jaza surely has, after living in both cultural.


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