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Sociology and Anthropology

Updated on April 15, 2016

Anthropology which is laterally the science of man is a discipline, so closely related to sociology that the two are often indistinguishable. Both sciences concerned themselves with human societies. Traditionally however, anthropology is concerned with uncivilized societies and societies whose members cannot read and write, to primitive or folk societies. In studying these societies, the Anthropologist investigates not only their forms of social organization and social relationships, which are of primary interest to sociology, but also their economics, religion, government, language, legends and customs, as well as the personalities of their inhabitants.

sociology, on the other hand has limited its direct attention to historical societies, to societies that are complex rather than simple, to societies whose members can read and write.To differentiate rather than undifferentiated societies. since these societies are complex and differentiated, the sociologist does not study them holistically. Put differently, the sociologist does not study their economy, their religion, nor their government,nor their language and literature and science in a strand, undifferentiated manner. Rather he studies their social organization and social structure and the social matrix within which these various phenomena appear, The Anthropologist has had to do the work with respect to non-literate societies that all social scientist, sociologist, economics, political scientist, science and philosophy.

There is thus a division of labor involved in the study of literate societies that would be neither practicable nor necessary in the study of non-literate, and undifferentiated simple societies. It is n this light that Anthropology is popularly defined as the study of primitive, preliterate and Pre-industrial societies and their culture. it was developed in Britain in order to study the ways of life and cultures of their colonies. In their study of primitive people, they evolved the study of ethnography, that is the classification of people, the study of races, their ways of life, their ways of farming e.t.c. It is in the study of cultures that Anthropology is most germane to sociology, especially if culture is broadly not only shared values but shared institutional arrangements.

Basically, sociology differs from Anthropology because the latter specialize in the study of preliterate, or primitive human groups, while sociology is primarily interested in modern industrial societies. This basic fact exerts a pervasive influence in the content study matter of the two disciplines. Anthropology tend to study societies in all their aspects, as a whole in so far as they specialize, it is usually in a given culture area such as they specialize, it is usually in a given culture area such as the Melanesia, the aborigines, the Inca, the red Indians of Latin America, the pygmies of Congo e.t.c. Sociologist more often study parts of a society and generally specializes in some institutions such as, the family, or a process such as social mobility, migration, development, industrial relations e.t.c. Anthropologist traditionally live in the community they study, directly observing behavior or recording customs as reported by their informants. This referred to as participant observation. Their method of analysis is essentially qualitative but sociologist more often rely on statistics and questionnaires, their analysis is more often formal and quantitative. The natural milieu for the Anthropologist is the small,self contained group or community, where as the sociologist is quite at home in studying large scale and impersonal organizations and processes.

However, as the traditional subjects of Anthropology become fully acculturated as society advances, and are dispersed through out the larger society or absorbed within it, Anthropology may be less able to survive as a distinctive discipline. This is purely on the basis that primitive, preliterate, Pre-industrial societies are all in the verge of disappearance. it is notable that sociology and Anthropology are closing up in their methods. sociology employs even participant observation , the traditional method of Anthropologist, in the study of various aspects of social behavior, social conditions and social processes like the study of prison conditions and prisoners behavior patterns.


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