What is the relationship between Sociology and Anthropology?


The relation between sociology and anthropology is widely recognized today. In fact, anthropologist Kroeber pointed out that the two- sciences are twin sisters. Robert Redfied writes that viewing the whole United States, one say that the relations between sociology and anthropology are closer than those between anthropology and political science, which is partly due to greater similarity in ways of work.

Anthropology is a general science like sociology. ‘The word anthropology’ is derived from two Greek words, ‘anthropos’ and ‘logos’ meaning the study of man. More precisely, it is defined by Kroeber as the science of man and his works and behavior. Anthropology is concerned not with particular man but with man in-group with races and peoples and their happenings and doings.

There is a great deal of similarities between anthropology and sociology. A number of subjects include society, culture, family religion, social stratification, etc. For this reason an eminent anthropologist like A.L. Kroeber regards “Sociology and Anthropology as twin sisters” Etymologically, anthropology means the study of the science of man. It traces the development of human race, and studies, in particular, the primitive preliterate people and their culture. Anthropologists are sure that anthropology is deeply concerned with the physical and cultural development of human beings from the time of their origin to this day. There cannot be two opinions about the fact that the field of its investigation is very vast. Its major divisions are as follows.


(i) Physical Anthropology

Physical anthropology is concerned with the characteristics of human anatomy. Their physical characteristics provide adequate knowledge about human race and the origin of human beings.

(ii) Archaeological or Historical Anthropology

It aims at the reconstruction of the social life of pre-historic man. In other words, pre-history deals with the cultures of the pre-historic period so that they can understand the present social structure better.


(iii) Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology, in the main is concerned with the material and non-material culture of the pre-literate human beings. In other words, it concentrates on the study of the primitive man’s culture, the primitive man of the past and of the present times,

(iv) Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology studies man as a social being. It has been rightly said that ‘social anthropology deals with the behavior of man in social situations.’ According to some scholars, ‘Social anthropology and sociology are in their broad sense, one and the same’. There are others who regard it as a branch of sociology.


Apart from these major divisions, there are quite a few branches of Anthropology as well. These branches can he described as human evolution or the study of fossil man and linguistics.

Anthropology not only studies the fossil man but also investigates the characteristics of the different culture groups and their changes through the study of language, which the human beings of the pre-literate and historical periods used. All this goes to show that anthropology is a very vast subject and it is deeply concerned with the man and his culture as it developed in the remote past. Dr. S.C. Dube does not find any difference between sociology and anthropology. He thinks that the two disciplines are identical, but in fact, there are some differences between the two disciplines. It is sociology, which concerns itself with the same phenomena, as they exist at present.

Anthropology concentrates on man as he is. On the other hand, sociology analyses man as social animal. It is an indispensable fact that sociologists in their attempt to understand the social phenomena of present times, draw upon the knowledge of the past. Nor can it be denied that they, in their desire to study man and society, make the best use of the invaluable data furnished by anthropological researches. In the same way, the data obtained by sociologists have immediately benefited anthropologists. Thus, there is no use of stressing on the fact that sociology and Anthropology are closely related to each other and are inter-dependent.

Differences between Sociology and Anthropology


Not withstanding their inter-dependence the two sciences differ from each other in many respects. The points of differences are as follows.

(1) The primitive, pre-literate people and their culture from the subject matter of anthropology. The completely human society is the basis of its investigation. It not only studies, the physical characteristics of the human race but also studies the influence itself. On the other hand, sociology takes note of the influence of the human race exerts on social relations, and it deals with people and their culture in the present context. Nor is it all. It focuses the attention of sociologists on some of the particular aspects of society. Thus it is quite obvious that the subject-matter of sociology is not the concern of anthropology. In respect of subject matter, both anthropology and sociology differ from each other.

(2) Anthropology has for its subject matter the small and static culture of people who belong to the pre-literate period. In sharp contrast to anthropological concern with small and static cultures, sociology investigates the culture of society which, to say the least is very vast and dynamic in nature.

(3) It is really curious that sociologists can easily manage with the second-hand informations, while anthropologists cannot hut depend upon the first-hand knowledge.


(4) Anthropology is concerned with the past where as sociology is concerned with the present. The future of social institutions does not worry anthropologists, because anthropology is not at all concerned with it but it cannot be said about sociology, as it is deeply concerned with the future of social institutions. Social Anthropology, which is the branch of anthropology proper, makes on investigation of ancient human societies and pre-historic archaeology, the other branch studies the ancient cultures. Sociology and Anthropology alone studies the human society as it exists,

(5) Finally, Sociology and Anthropology have dissimilar methods since their subject matter differs. It has been seen that sociologists in their study of man and society make use of statistics, documentary evidences, etc. The anthropologists’ especially social anthropologists use functional methods in their study of the primitive man and his culture. It is not possible for an anthropologists to complete his research project without living with those people of a particular society whom he has chosen for his investigation. On the whole anthropology employees the methods used by natural sciences, while sociology uses the methods of social science.

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