Sunday, March 17, 2024

Ethnocentrism Is Properly Disclosed In Prince Harry’s Book

 College Writing I: Essay #2

Student: Gibson, John

Professor: Michael Baron

University Of Massachusetts, Lowell, 

March 1, 2024

Ethnocentrism Is Properly Disclosed In Prince Harry’s Book

Prince Harry's book “Spare,” revealing British feelings about Americans being "too loud" and his own feeling of being a "spare" in the book's title (Windsor, p. 259), and the publisher distributing the book to the USA to catch American readership, all seem paradoxical in many fronts. "Spare" means a backup component not in use in the current state of affairs, and criticizing the reader population as "too loud" is not flattering. The book “Spare,” sitting next to tabloids in Walmart checkout lines, may seem dismissable among celebrity gossip catering to stay-at-home homemakers. However, before dismissing the book, the thesis of this essay is that the contemporary paradoxes of the old imperial system present an opportunity to revisit sociology textbook views on ethnocentrism to further sociological investigations.

The dictionary definition that the textbooks follow faithfully is "1906 - Ethnocentrism is the technical name for this view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it. - W. G. Sumner, Folkways i. 13" in Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary). This 1906 definition is reiterated by Dr. Richard Schaefer's textbook Sociology Matters with added specificity of "assumption of one's own culture and way of life represent the norm or are superior to all others" (Schaefer, p. 104). It focuses on culture, not mentioning human genetic makeup or other distractors. Culture, according to the textbook, refers to either the physical objects, such as culture icons, iPad, national flags, etc., or the learned behavior, custom, value, and knowledge (Schaefer, p. 105). Behaviors are sanctioned (Schaefer, p. 121). Sanctions are either negative or positive. Negative sanctions often include stares, fines, jail sentences, humiliation, bullying, and threats. Positive sanctions include compliments, promotions, bonuses, and raises (Schaefer, p.121). Sociological values are more complex than behaviors and sanctions and cannot be described in one or two sentences.  For the British royals, the intimate behavior between family members received negative sanctions. Late Princess Diana once tried to hug Queen Elizabeth, only to be met with the Queen turning her chest away, and Princess Diana awkwardly “lunge” forward, with “averted eyes” by the Queen (Windsor, p. 77). There were no further incidences of Princess Diana trying to hug Queen Elizabeth in Prince Harry’s report. Textbooks describe the sanctions on behavior correctly. 

In the textbook, sociological values relating to ethnocentrism is more complex than cultures and behaviors, as evident that the textbook evokes the word “conception,” which is rarely used (Schaefer, p.123). The word “conception” is only used two times in the entire textbook. First in relation to sociological value and second in gender formation discussions. For comparison, the word “divorce” is used 24 times. The conceptions determine what is good, desirable, proper, important, and right in a culture (Schaefer, p.123). Values are influential and wide-ranging, according to the textbook, because values are correlated to sanctions for behaviors. In the textbook’s examples, if a culture values marriage, cheating would incur punishments, possibly reflected in divorce judgment, imprisonment, or worse. As expected by the textbook, what is good, desirable, proper, important, and right is highly complex and may not be consistent in Harry’s world.  The good is generally what the larger society agrees with. Harry has a productive life, achieving the second lieutenant rank by 2006 and being promoted further. However, Harry’s desire is to have family intimacy, not a “buffer zone” (Windsor, p. 54). In Harry’s world, what is proper is to be the “Heir” instead of the “Spare.” And being constantly referred to as a spare takes a psychological toll on Harry, which is discernible in the book’s writing. In Harry Windsor’s world, mental, intellectual, and physical strength is highly valued as monarchs are heads of armed forces, fearless of death, with “the glory of dying, the beautify of the dying, the necessity of dying” explicitly annunciated in “poetry” in the boot camp (Windsor, p. 112). Corporal physical punishment was used on Harry Windsor when he attended the elite Ludgrove school when he received “clout” peddling in the 1990s (Windsor, p. 36). Textbook’s theory of sanctions shaping behavior with a value system predicts correctly that both Harry and William became military officers. 

What is missing in the textbook but described well in Mr. Windsor’s book is the relation between the conception and assumption of one’s strength and superiority in his or her culture. The textbook doesn’t say how much of the conceptions of cultural values form randomly, by assumptions, by scientific, authoritative sources, or by authoritarian politics. The textbook does say that the conceptions of cultural values may or may not change over time. The American example used was “being well-off financially” as a value, and the statistics collected over the past 50 years in America’s freshman college entrance application form showed a clear upward trend in favor of that value point (Schaefer, p. 124). If a group of wealthy people successfully exerted and imprinted their assumption of self-superiority over the past 50 years onto college freshmen, the self-superiority assumption produced the conception of value. But, it is equally possible that other influences created the conception, for example, images of homelessness flooding Internet media, alerting the youth to become vigilant in wealth management. In Harry’s world, value conceptions consistently and persistently obey the self-superiority assumption. Harry’s grandfather, Philips, passed on the value of being an intellect with mastery in Shakespearian literature to his father, Charles, who is also a highly accomplished Shakespearian scholar, and the tradition traced back to Henry VI (Windsor, p. 83). Charles Windsor tried to perpetuate the tradition onto William and Harry Windsor. Harry’s assertion is that the sorrow of losing his mother and dear friends, tragedy as a way of life, strengthened his military application quality. The exact wording is, "What's that you say, young man? Parents divorced? Mum's dead? Unresolved grief or psychological trauma? Step this way!" (Windsor, p. 97). But this transition from reigning by the cool-headed scholar to leading by empathy did not happen. Instead, positive sanctions and rewards followed Harry’s behavior when Harry submitted to the father-son hierarchy and joined the army when Charles Windsor smiled and said, “Yes, darling boy” (Windsor, p.80).  

What is emphasized in the textbook is that as few as three persons together require social construct analysis. The textbook example is American divorce statistics in nuclear families with only three persons. A newborn infant to a couple is enough to upset the relationship constructs that some couples divorce after the first newborn baby arrives (Conley, p.352). Either the mother and the infant form the stay-at-home group, or the mother and the father form the parent group, and the grouping sets the stage for conflicts (Conley, p.352). In the British royal family, the relationship between Charles, William, and the new arrival of Harry is logically more complex than an infant’s arrival to a couple.

What is missing in the textbook but well-described in Mr. Windsor’s book is the possible circular logic of ethnocentrism. This possible circular logic runs on both the larger American society and the micro-scale society of royals, heirs and spares. If the people in the power group successfully exert their assumption of self-superiority of being in control, the new generation of royals will align their values with it. This mentality further shuns the relinquishing of control by the heirs to the spares. If circular logic is the truth of ethnocentrism, the result is ever-reduced resources shared with the spares. Ethnocentrism would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. In Harry’s world, the possible self-fulfilling prophecy has worked by emphasizing the hazardous royal life as a way of life full of moral and ethical trappings. It has shunned innovation and embraced the superiority of tradition. The result has been persistent scandals and tragedy, with Andrew in sex trafficking accusations and Diana dying young at 36. Perfectly able bodies and minds wasted away or into oblivion.

What is emphasized in the textbook is the inconsistency between value systems in culture and the group encompassing the culture. Examples of conflicting values in America are angry political messages on billboards (Schaefer, p. 124). The example of the royal family is the conflict between the heirs and the spares. Prince Harry and Prince Andrew are not the only spare people. Harry’s grandaunt Margo (Margret) died in 2002, leaving Harry regretting not getting close to Margo and supporting Margo more when she was alive. The exact wording is "Aunt Margo and I should've been friends" (Windsor, p. 74).  Margret was Queen Elizabeth’s spare and was cast as a strange aunt when she was alive. Harry’s sensitive emotional appeals to the world disclose the ethnocentrism of the past British conquest over Zulu and a multitude of other tribes of the world as “I should’ve been horrified” (Windsor, p. 33). It may have helped the healing process. However, the ethnocentric social construct cast Harry aside while galvanizing ethnocentrism itself. The exact wording is for Harry “to disappear” (Windsor, p. 80).

What needs to be concluded, at least, is that there is no need to be afraid of picking up a book next to the tabloid stand - with a clear conscience set to understand human social constructs. Mr. Windsor’s book is no exception. What is concluded in the textbook is the need to peel back the legacy, the mythology, the emotional attachments, and the baggage of life tangles to focus on the well-being of all humans as equals assigned to different roles and functions and find impartial solutions by using the sociological imagination. The exact wording by American sociologist C. Wright Mill is “the vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society.” It is available as an abstract in Marco Caselli’s The Challenge of a Global Sociological Imagination, part of the University Of Massachusetts, Lowell Library database (Caselli, 2022). This is a brand new field of study. And the investigation of globalization’s effect on sociological imagination has just begun.

Works Cited 

Caselli, Marco. "The Challenge of a Global Sociological Imagination." Italian Sociological Review, vol. 12, no. 1, 2022, pp. 0_1,1-18. ProQuest,, doi:

Conley, Dalton. You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist. 7th ed., W. W. Norton and Company, 2021.

“Ethnocentrism, N.” Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford UP, July 2023,

Schaefer, Richard T. Sociology Matters. McGraw-Hill, 2019. 

Windsor, Harry. Spare. Random House, 2023. 

No comments:

Post a Comment