Difference Between Social and Cultural Factors

Key Difference – Social vs Cultural Factors 

 

Although both Social and Cultural factors are deeply related, there is a clear difference between the two sets. When paying attention to various social phenomena, one cannot ignore the influence of social and cultural factors that shape, change, and develop the phenomenon. We cannot distinguish as to which set of factors have a greater impact, and which set affects the phenomenon least. However, one should not confuse the two as interchangeable as the key difference between the two is being that the social factors, while change the lives of individuals, they also bring structural changes to the society. On the other hand, cultural factors are not something that are imposed on the individual in most cases, but something that the individual has internalized over the years. Through this article let us examine the difference between social and cultural factors in detail. First let us begin with social factors.

What are Social Factors?

Social factors refer to the range of elements that have their roots in the society. When speaking of social factors, one can distinguish them once again to subsets. This is because our society is a composition of five main institutions. They are the family, education, political, religious and economic institution. Hence, when referring to social factors attention should go to all these elements.

Social factors can create a great impact on the individual and the society at large. It can change the course of society. For example, let us take the economic factors. When the economy of a particular society undergoes changes due to an economic crisis, this creates a huge impact on the people of the society.  It brings about changes in lifestyles, unemployment, the rise of crime and deviance, etc. This highlights that while social factors change the lives of individuals, they also brings about structural changes.

Difference Between Social and Cultural Factors

Now let us pay attention to cultural factors.

What are Cultural Factors?

These cultural factors or elements have their roots in the culture of a particular society. When comprehending cultural factors, it is vital to have an understanding of culture. A culture encompasses the system of values, attitudes, beliefs, norms, mores, and taboos in society. These systems have been created by the people of the society and have passed on from one generation to the other. In this process of passing on various value systems, they sometimes undergo changes. These can be due to various social factors.

So, cultural factors are the values, norms, beliefs that people have. In a society, people usually conform to these factors. They are not something that are imposed on the individual in most cases, but something that the individual has internalized over the years. This internalization of culture occurs through the socialization process. Cultural factors usually dictate the way of life of the individual and their roles and responsibilities. For example, let us take the ancient woman. Unlike today, the woman had a specific role to play within the cultural setting. She was believed to be passive, weak, and dependent. These were the cultural attitudes that people had of the woman. These influence the values of the woman. She was mostly at home and had a nurturing and caring role to play in the household. There was less opportunity for the woman to get involved in the economic institution. However, with the change of culture, now, the situation has improved, where the woman has transgressed from a traditional image.

As you will notice, social and cultural factors are deeply interrelated. At times, one cannot even distinguish whether the impact was created by social factors or else cultural factors. For instance, the changing role of the woman, as taken in the example above, can be due to social factors, as well. The increasing opportunities given for women to educate themselves and changing market policies have all contributed to this change. However, although the factors are interrelated one should not confuse the two as interchangeable.

Social vs Cultural Factors

What is the Difference Between Social and Cultural Factors?

Definitions of Social and Cultural Factors:

Social factors: Social factors refer to the range of elements that have their roots in the society.

Cultural factors: Cultural factors or elements have their roots in the culture of a particular society.

Characteristics of Social and Cultural Factors:

Origin:

Social factors: These set of factors stem from the society.

Cultural factors: These factors stem from the culture.

Influence:

Social factors: Social factors can influence the individual and society at large.

Cultural factors: Similar to social factors, cultural factors can also influence the individual and society. But this occurs mainly through the internalization of culture.

Examples:

Social factors: Educational, political, familial, religious, and economic factors fall under this category.

Cultural factors: Values, attitudes, norms, beliefs fall under this category.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “2009 Dublin financial crisis march” by William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland – Protest March – Organised By The Unions. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

2. “Ladies of a Mandarin’s Family at Cards” by Drawn by Thomas Allom, engraved by A. Willmore – Thomas Allom; G. N. Wright (1843). China, in a Series of Views, Displaying the Scenery, Architecture, and Social Habits of That Ancient Empire. Volume 3. p. 18.. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons