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Difference Between Anthropology and Sociology

anthropologyAnthropology vs Sociology

The study of human beings can be the study of a lifetime. Trying to understand human behavior has been a task that has occupied some of the greatest thinkers of our race for thousands of years. Disciplined study of the human race has been taking place since the Renaissance. Today there are many fields and sub-fields of study. While humankind is the subject matter of all these fields the philosophical approach to study varies from discipline to discipline. It may not be apparent at first, but there are some differences between anthropology and sociology.

Definition of Anthropology and Sociology

  • Anthropology ‘“ is a social science that is concerned with human culture as well as the physical and social characteristics that create that culture. Often it will compare one group of humans to another or even compare humans with animals.
  • Sociology ‘“ is a social science that studies the functionality of human society including origins, development, and organization. It will also look at these attributes inside institutions and organizations.

History of Anthropology and Sociology

  • Anthropology ‘“ human beings have been observing and recording the behavior of others since the dawn of civilization. Some credit Herodotus and Tacitus with being the first anthropologists. However, it wasn’t until the late eighteenth century that a codified study of other cultures began. Traditionally, anthropology has been about Westerners studying the culture of less technologically advanced peoples. In some instances the study of anthropology led to racist theories about the overall advancement of difference groups.
  • Sociology ‘“ has also been practiced since the Greek period as a study of one’s surrounding society. However, it wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that sociology was recognized as an academic discipline and became part of university curriculum.

Focus of Anthropology and Sociology

  • Anthropology ‘“ is interested in the overall culture of a group of people. This includes social institutions, art, history, mythology, and common mores, among other traits. Anthropologies now study societies all over the world, but look for overarching themes that are reinforced through case studies. It also includes archeology, and due to a great amount of substantive speculation is thought to be a softer science than sociology.
  • Sociology ‘“ is a quantitative social science. Most theories are based on polls, statistical analysis, sampling, and large collections of life histories. Sociologists strive to be as impartial and scientific as possible as they gather data. The data analyzed by sociologists is often used by government officials and market researchers alike.

Summary:
1. Anthropology and sociology are both fields of social science that study the behavior of humans within their societies.
2. Traditionally anthropology dealt with the study of cultures different from one’s own, especially those less advanced while sociology was used to understand one’s own society.
3. Today anthropology tends to look at the big picture of human culture while sociology spends more time analyzing data from a specific study.
4. Anthropology is considered to be a softer science than sociology as it bases more of its conclusions on case studies than hard data.


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16 Comments

  1. This article is a bit misleading. Sociology is also a qualitative science and researchers often employ qualitative methodology like ethnography in research.

    • Both of course are not completely mutually exclusive, as nothing never is. The article is not misleading but gives a great general explanation of the difference between the two.

  2. Thank you for posting this! I now know which minor I will be choosing to go along with my psychology degree. Sociology won in my book but that’s just me because both are very interesting fields of study.

  3. This article isn’t very informative about the differences between the two fields. In fact, it is over generalizing. Anthropology both utilizes qualitative and quantitative methods…same with Sociology.

  4. Wow! people you are confusing me when I am in the crucial moment of what to choose for my Master’s degree !

    I find both the decipline appealing to me, my focus is on development of Dalit community, but I need to be well equipped with knowlesge to understand the larger soceity in order to map dalit’s position and plight, so I am aiming to bring academic and activism together for better understanding the issue to support development of Dalits in particular to south asia. So friends suggest that what should I take for masters???

  5. As one who is a major in a radical department where Anthropology and Sociology are not separate, and to major in one is to major in the other, I loved this article. I think its a violent shame that any one should have to choose between the two. But I also think its a violent shame that, since the two are studies of human behavior, and all disciplines are essentially derivatives of human behavior, anyone should have to choose between any discipline of study. They should all fall under one category of study to be holistically studied for optimal comprehension. This being the only way to overcome the limitations of today’s arts and sciences.

  6. I’d suggest you study English; if you’re thinking that “decipline” is a properly spelled word, you’re in a lot of trouble. Furthermore, people outside of India generally don’t know what the word “dalit” means. Additionally, the whole concept of “dalit” is antiquated from an anthropological perspective. If you’re going to take it to the next level, you’re going to need to step up your game big time. I have an MA in Anthropology with a strong emphasis in South Asian Anthropology and I’m in the middle of my doctoral research currently just in case anyone wants to question if my opinion is armchair quarterbacking or not.

  7. Cole Sprouse brought me here.

  8. What does this have to do with Cole Sprouse leaving tumblr?

  9. Literally dying because omg the Cole Sprouse comments.

  10. Is’t that sociology is more scientific than anthropology.

  11. The differences is clear with both decipling.goodenought stated it.

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