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What is essentialism, in terms of sociology?

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Quick Answer

In sociology, essentialism is a belief that people or events have behaviors that never change. The theory of essentialism states that human beings are not capable of changing their behavior regardless of their social or cultural background.

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Full Answer

Essentialism is a theory that is used to describe the reasons behind human behavior. A person who believes in essentialism thinks that humans act according to a combination of genetic and biological rules. These rules are not affected by a person's social background or psychological state.

People who believe in essentialism think that a human is likely to behave in the same way regardless of which culture they have been brought up in. An example of such a belief is that men are always more aggressive than women, regardless of culture, because males have higher testosterone levels. In essentialism, the place of birth, time in history that the person lived and type of upbringing don't affect the person's behavior.

There are a number of alternative theories to essentialism. An anthropologist, for example, believes that human behavior is greatly affected by the culture and environment in which he is raised. Unlike essentialists, anthropologists think that humans can change their behavior unconsciously in response to their surroundings.

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