Dr. D. N. Majumdar and other contemporary anthropologists have regarded social anthropology as a part of cultural anthropology. Cultural anthropology studies the mode of life of the contemporary primitive man.
Cultural anthropology has four branches, e.g., linguistics and symbology, thought and art, economic anthropology and social anthropology. Social anthropology studies the different kinds of social life and its evolution. In this way, according to Dr. Majumdar, linguistics, symbology, economic anthropology and thought and art are outside the scope of social anthropology.
According to this point of view, familial anthropology and political anthropology only form the part of social anthropology. This is clear from the aforesaid discussion about the scope of social anthropology. But familial anthropology and political anthropology are closely related to the other branches.
American anthropologist, Morgan, was the founder of social anthropology. Social anthropology and cultural anthropology differ more in their subject matter than in their modes and percepts. While cultural anthropology studies cultures, social anthropology is a study of social structure, social organization and social relations.
Morgan studied anthropology through the study of society. Durkheim showed that social relations are different from psychological relations and that both way social anthropology studies anthropology in the terms of society.
According to contemporary American anthropologists,, social anthropology is only a branch of cultural anthropology because culture is a wider concept than ‘society and includes far greater scope than what is included in the study of social life.
Study of Recurrent Social Relations
It is clear from the above explanation that in the subject of the field of social anthropology there are different ideologies. But there is no doubt that social anthropology has its own special place in anthropological studies.
Radcliffe Brown is of the opinion that we come across social relations everywhere but culture nowhere while working in the field of society. Some of these social relations are important and are often repeated.
It is these repeated social relations which from the social structure. Social structure is formed by the mutual relations among individuals. Thus the repeatead facts of social life can be known through the study of social structure.
Individuals face alternatives within the framework of social structure. A selection has to be made among these alternatives and its results are important. This selection helps in forming social organization and gives rise to social changes. Social structure can be compared to anatomy and social organization can be compared to physiology. In brief, social organization is the practical form of social structure.
Social anthropologists of Britain have made comparative studies of the classical forms of human behaviour through an application of the concepts of structure and organization, etc. Claude Levi Strauss in Europe has called social anthropology a study of communication. There is a mutual communication in society among individuals and groups.
This communication is carried on through words and symbols which have special meaning. In this way, the study of linguistics, thought and art is included in the field of social anthropology.
Institutions of marriage and family have to be studied for a study of communication between man and woman. In the same way, social organization is made and material culture develops on the basis of an exchange of commodities and services among different individuals and groups. According to Strauss, therefore, human societies should be studied in terms of social structure and communication and not in terms of culture.
It is clear from the above discussion that cultural anthropology and social anthropology study almost the same subject matter through different concepts.
It is true that the scope of cultural anthropology is a bit wider but it is difficult to draw a line of demarcation between the two on the basis of scope.
The real difference lies in the fact that when cultural anthropology studies culture, social anthropology studies social relations, social structures and social organizations. This difference between cultural anthropology and social anthropology helps in describing the scope of social anthropology.