The difference between Sociology and Social Anthropology – Essay

Evans-Pritchard agrees that generally both sociology and social anthropology study the society. But they both differ on the following points:

1. Field differences:

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Social anthropology focuses on primitive societies whereas sociology concerns itself with civilized society.

2. Methodological differences:

Social anthropology employs field- work as a dependable source of data generation. Sociology, on the other hand, depends on the collection of documents and genera­tion of statistical data.

3. Holistic and specific differences:

Social anthropology believes in making holistic studies of the primitive community. Different in­stitutions of the community are functionally interrelated. Quite contrarily, sociology dwells on specific problems of the society.

4. Philosophical orientation:

Social anthropology makes a general body of information about primitive social life. In anthropologi­cal studies theoretical input is relatively less; the sociological approach, on the other hand, has a heavy dose of social philoso­phy and theoretical approach.

In conclusion, it could be said that both these social sciences have difference of emphasis and perspective. The specialization of social an­thropology rests on primitive peoples and methodology of research.

Fieldwork method is taken up in small-scale society; it takes a long time to generate data. On the other hand, the theme of study of sociol­ogy is larger societies and the fieldwork is through tools such as schedule and questionnaire which usually take lesser time.

In India, the development of social anthropology is conditioned by certain historical factor. Yogendra Singh has discussed the relative situations of sociology and social anthropology in terms of historical and social forces. He observes:

This social conditioning, however, is historically constituted. To the western pioneers of sociology, major challenges come from the emerging industrial society and it’s accompanying cultural and epistemological tensions. In the Indian context, the colonial experience, the memory of the past glory and the project for future political and cultural emancipation constituted the major cognitive and moral concerns.

In a later description Yogendra Singh cites illustrations from the British anthropologists and says that they treated caste and tribe as discreet’ structural and cultural formations. Verrier Elvin developed so­cial anthropology based on the British social .anthropology in his earlier writings. “Yogendra Singh comments:

The colonial ethnographers, for instance, took a placid, even a syn­chronic view of the tribal society. The conceptual framework developed by the British administrators-turned-ethnographers and by anthropologists was inspired by the then prevailing model in anthro­pology. Tribal communities were treated as isolates, tribals as noble savages and the primitive condition was described as a state of Arca­dian simplicity.

If we look at: the status of social anthropology during the colonial regime in India, we immediately find that both sociology and social anthropology became vulnerable to colonial forces.

This brought so­cial anthropology and sociology closer. Both disciplines had a corrimon theme to study and research about. M.S. Gore was formally a sociologist but he studied tribals in great detail. M.N. Srinivas occu­pied the chair of the Professor of Sociology, but all through his life he studied tribes, castes and villages.

His classic work, Religion and Soci­ety among the Co-orgs and his edited work India’s Villages are essentially an anthropological output. Similar best are the works of Andre Beteilk) S.C, Dimbe and T.N. Madan. Interestingly enough, the socio­logical conceptual formulations brought out by sociologists are essentially social-anthropological in nature and content.

The Indian soc-al anthropology has firstly borrowed much from the British social anthropology; and then, developed closeness with sociology. In the field of method, theory and data, they are interrelated.

Thus, from the view point of theme and method, it is difficult to separate the two in India- What A.L. Kroeber wrote about the relationship of social an­thropology and sociology in the US, very rightly applies to Indian situation. Kroeber observes:

All in all, these are differences only in emphasis. In principle, sociol­ogy and social anthropology are hard to keep apart.