Difference Between Society and Culture

Society vs Culture


 Many people are confused about the difference between the two concepts of Society and Culture as they think they are the same and often use them interchangeably. However, there are differences between the terms Society and Culture. These two terms are commonly encountered in the writings of sociologists and are used in daily life too. First let us define the terms of society and culture. Society is where a group of individuals lives and interact with others. Culture, on the other hand, is the way of life of these people. This includes the norms, values, mores, customs and traditions, etc. This is the basic difference between a society and culture. Through this article, readers can better appreciate these words after getting a better understanding of the difference between the two terms.

What is Society?

Society refers to the population, civilization, or the group in which an individual lives and interacts. When one says that society is much more tolerant now, he refers to the community in which he lives. People residing in a country make up the society. For example, groups of people in US, Japan, and India make up different societies. When it comes to greeting, people in US shake hands and say Hi, people in Japan bow down while Indians fold their hands and say Namaste. These different forms of greetings will let you know the differences in cultures of different countries. In every society, there are different cultural practices. These differ from one society to another. Sometimes within a single society there can be the co-existence of several cultures. In this case, these cultures influence one another and change over time. Moving back to our discussion on society, a society consists of various social institutions: mainly, Family, Religion, Political, Economical, and Educational institutions. These institutions are once again influenced by one another and cannot work independently. It is through the equilibrium of these social institutions that the social order is sustained.

Difference Between Society and Culture

What is Culture?

Culture refers to the behavioral traits that make up boundaries for socially acceptable behaviors in any society. Culture is the total of beliefs, values, and practices that are common in any population or society. For example, people kiss one another as a form of greeting when they meet in the Western world whereas kissing may be seen as unacceptable behavior in the eastern part of the world. This one example is enough to show that culture tells people what to do and what to avoid. Normal practices in any society are called its culture. Culture is a very broad term, and the example given above is only a minuscule part of any culture. Culture is often reflected in the traditional products, art and music of any community or population. These are the manifestations of the beliefs, practices and moral values of any society. However, you cannot pick up any one thing and call it as a culture. It is the total of all such things that makes a composite culture of any society. Though neither society nor culture is static and keeps on changing, culture has a historic perspective, and traditional beliefs and practices are handed down over generations. These practices are reflected in all demeanors and behaviors such as art, music, teaching, structures, religion, foods, sense of dressing, literature, poetry, etc. Society, on the other hand, has got to do with laws, government structures, constitutions, family, men women, labor, and, in general, all things social. Society is a more abstract concept than culture. This highlights not only the difference, but also the connection that exists between society and culture. These should not be studied in isolation but viewed as interrelated factors. Now let us summarize the difference between Society and Culture in the following manner.

Society vs Culture

What is the Difference Between Society and Culture?

  • Society is the total of all different social groups and their interactions
  • Culture is the total of beliefs, practices and moral values that are handed down through generations
  • Highly cultured society has a refined level of intellectual and artistic sensitivity
  • Culture is reflected in the products, art, music and cuisine of a society
  • Society is a more abstract concept than culture


Image Courtesy:

1. “Khao San Road at night by kevinpoh” by Kevin Poh from Petaling Jaya, Malaysia – Bangkok’s Khaosan Road [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Cultural Show by Leonardolo at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons