Norms, values, and behaviors of different cultures can often contradict each other. Therefore, an international company and its employees can be torn between the ethical principles of the host country, where they meet a completely different set of moral values. However, proponents of cultural universalism believe humanity lives in a civilization based on universal values ignoring cultural diversity. The grounds for such claims are to be evaluated in this paper.
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First, all people are the representatives of the human race: they have a uniform psyche and the same biological needs (Szkudlarek et al., 2020). Second, they all solve similar life problems and possess cultural universals. They are understood as features, norms, values, and rules inherent in all cultures, regardless of geographical location, historical time, and social structure of society. On the contrary, relativism presupposes the denial of an ethnocentric position, going beyond the limits of one’s values, and trying to sympathize and understand another culture.
Recognition of relativism ideas requires the manifestation of tolerance, respect for the individual, his culture, customs, and traditions (Szkudlarek et al., 2020). Multinational corporations in other countries often adhere to local laws contrary to their ethical standards (Doh et al., 2016). For example, based on relativist’s philosophy, an international corporation could justify slave labor in gold and diamond mining in African regions.
Each of the approaches described has advantages and disadvantages. The positive side of cultural universalism is the desire to unite different people based on shared values. The virtues of cultural relativism lie in a respectful and careful attitude towards all cultures. A comprehensive understanding of the relationship in global corporate culture is only possible when the merits of cultural relativism and universalism are combined.
Szkudlarek, B., Romani, L., Caprar, D. V., & Osland, J. S. (Eds.). (2020). Handbook of contemporary cross-cultural management. SAGE.
Doh, J., Husted, B. W., & Yang, X. (2016). Guest editors’ introduction: Ethics, corporate social responsibility, and developing country multinationals. Business Ethics Quarterly, 26(3), 301-315. Web.