Difference Between Anthropology and Sociology

Anthropology vs Sociology


Between Anthropology and Sociology, there exist some differences, even though, both are considered as social sciences that study different aspects of the human being. There is a great overlapping between anthropology and sociology, so much so that sometimes it shrinks to studying ‘them v/s us’. Yes, both anthropology and sociology make study of man, his behavior, culture, and interactions with the society. Anthropologists focus upon tribes and cultures of colonized people; sociologists work with western, urban societies. There are many similarities and differences between these two subjects within the realms of social sciences and it is the differences that will be harped upon in this article.

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology studies man in his entirety. There are broad classifications of subject matter into archeology, physical anthropology, linguistic, and cultural anthropology. It is clear that physical anthropology is more concerned with the study of physical features of man such as his height, color of skin, and shape of body and head etc. Archeology is that part of anthropology that is all about digging out artifacts from below the surface of the earth that reveal a lot about man of those times and his interactions with the society. It is involved in making deductions and drawing inferences from the analysis of artifacts and tools. It is cultural anthropology that is closest to sociology and, even here, there are differences in approach and methodology that justify segregating these two social sciences.

Anthropology is concerned with the study of fewer advanced cultures such as tribes in Africa and Asia, whereas, sociology is more concerned with understanding social structuring in our societies. Anthropology is a broader social science as it studies various aspects of human beings from their physical features to the study of their artifacts (archeology). However, it is when we talk about social anthropology, also called cultural anthropology, that distinctions between sociology and anthropology begin to blur. Now let us move on to an understanding of Sociology.

Difference Between Anthropology and Sociology

Aztec calendar stone

What is Sociology?

Both anthropology and sociology attempt to answer questions pertaining to man and his behavior in his society. However, unlike in Anthropology, in Sociology, society is at the focus of study.  If one goes into basics, one finds that sociology is the scientific study of societies and social relationships. The main purpose of sociologists is to gain an insight into human behavior. How and why human beings behave in a particular manner in a society is the central question in any sociological debate. The changes in the behavior of an individual as a result of being a member of a family, group, society, and a religion are studied deeply in sociology. Why human beings behave the way they do in societies is what sociologists try to unravel.

In sociology, the complex social processes, and the role of social institutions are being studied. The idea of social order and its maintenance, the impact of social institutions, not only on the people of a society but also on the very idea of social stability are being discussed. In Sociology, research plays a key role in exploring and understanding the social constructions as well as the subjective meanings that people associate to understanding the society. This highlights that Sociology is different from Anthropology, even though, there is a tendency for the disciplines to fuse together in certain situations.

Anthropology vs Sociology

Sociology is the scientific study of societies and social relationships

What is the Difference Between Anthropology and Sociology?

  • There are many differences right from the subject matter to approach and methodology of sociologists and anthropologists
  • While there are subdivisions in anthropology such as physical anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archeology, and cultural anthropology, sociology has one point agenda and that is to study the effect of society on individual and the relationships of human beings and their societies.
  • The fundamental difference between sociology and anthropology is that while sociologists study societies, anthropologists study cultures.


Image Courtesy:

1. Aztec calendar stone in National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City by Sasha Isachenko (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. “FamiliaOjeda” by Ojedamd  (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons