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Relationship between Anthropology and Sociology

Updated on September 7, 2012

Difference between Anthropology and Sociology

Sociology studies human behavior in groups. It is a science of societies. Anthropology is a science of man and studies human behavior in social surroundings. The subject matter of sociology and anthropology is common to a great extent In fact, no special difference in these two sciences was recognized till the beginning of 20th century. The idea of recognizing them as two separate sciences is comparatively new. Sociology and anthropology have very much influenced each other. For example, the ideology of Durkhiem, a French Sociologist, has greatly influenced the doctrines of anthropologists like Malinowski and Radcliffe Brown. Hoebel has stated very clearly, Sociology and Social anthropology, in their broadest senses, are one and the same.

Discoveries in different branches of anthropology have thrown a new light on the principles of sociology. Social anthropology as a branch of anthropology is nearest to sociology. Its aim is to study human behavior in social surroundings. Many of its discoveries have thrown new light on several subjects of sociology. Sociology has taken tine ideas of cultural field, cultural apparatus, interdependent tools, cultural lag etc., from social anthropology and "has developed them further.

The important discoveries of famous anthropologists like Ralph Linton and Abraham Kardiner have greatly influenced sociology. Both these anthropologists have discovered that there is a basic personality type in every society which is created by cultural influence on an individual from the very childhood. This basic personality type is different because of the differences in the cultural influences. The discoveries of Malinowski, a British anthropologist, have proved very important in sociology. The applied, viewpoint of the study of culture is a special contribution to sociology by Malinowski. According to it, culture should be studied with the viewpoint of its usefulness for man. The discoveries of Ruth Benedict have been very helpful in studying various sociological problems about national character.

Besides social anthropology, the various discoveries of Physical anthropology have also exerted great influence on various problems of sociology. In his book Anthropology and Modem life Franz Boas has given a detailed description of this influence playing an important part in turning an individual into a criminal. It has been proved from ethnological discoveries of Franz Boas and Otto Klineberg that physical characteristics have nothing to do with the mental special features and that the influence of environment is the chief cause for mental differences. Anthropology has also helped sociology by disproving the ideas of racism. The discoveries of anthropology have proved that today no race can claim purity or superiority over other races. Maclver and many other sociologists have attached great importance to this contribution of anthropology.

In the modern age, anthropology and sociology have developed so much that to know their differences is more necessary than to know their relations. The scope of anthropology and sociology is different. Social anthropology also studies primitive society whereas sociology studies modern society only. Social anthropology studies all the social, economic, political and cultural aspects of mankind. Sociology on the other hand studies social relations and social interactions alone. In this way the study of sociology is more particularistic whereas that of anthropology is more generalized. Another area where sociology and anthropology differ is that sociology tends to be always suggestive whereas anthropology less tends to be so.

Sociology and social anthropology also differ in the methods they apply in the study. Social anthropologist specifically uses applied method, a classic example for this, being participant observation. On the other hand, sociologist to a maximum extent collects the data through survey and statistical methods.


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    • profile image

      hina khan 

      3 years ago

      Great information

    • profile image

      john abletis 

      6 years ago

      Sociology is the study of society and the social interactions taking place within it. Social relations and social interactions,the primary subject matters of sociology, also include "social", economic, political, cultural, geographical, and social-psychological aspects of mankind (these are the stuffs that sociologist like me are trained and accustomed to theorize and to research on, hence they are not exclusively "under" the study of social anthropology). And since we study society holistically and at various levels of generality and specificity (depending on the research interest and theoretical orientation and inclination of a particular sociologist)because social realities have multiple levels, we are not contented to study only one aspect of social life (i.e. economy for economists, state for political scientists, internal well-being and microsocial interactions for psychologists, and "culture" for anthropologists) since we see these various aspects of social life, as found in all levels of social reality, as interconnected, interdependent, and interacting with each other. That is why there are numerous specializations in sociology(and many are still emerging, please check this page to see for your self how vast and inclusive sociology as a discipline is), because the study of social behavior is much more complex than the "specific" areas of study of other social sciences.I am from the Philippines.

    • videogameviking profile image


      6 years ago from California

      This is an interesting comparison! I find primitive society much more interesting than modern society, but then I also find science fiction more interesting than modernity. However, if I had to break it down and compare the Flintstones to the Jetsons; I would choose the Flintstones. So I guess one could say that I am more interested in Anthropology than Sociology. But, they are both fairly interesting.

    • profile image

      padam rai 

      6 years ago

      lacking reference

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Very good hub on the differences between sociology and anthropology. Well done. Rated up!


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