But it will be very simplistic to differentiate social anthropology and cultural anthropology on the basis of these two concepts-cultural and social. In Europe and USA, there is a debate on the relationship between social and cultural.
The cultural anthropologists or culturologists consider culture apart from society and as an entity independent of society, and having an objective reality and intelligibility of its own.
On the other hand, the social anthropologists argue that they study social relations rather than culture, social institutions and their relations to social systems rather than isolated customs and cultural traits.
David Bidney, who has developed theoretical anthropology, tries to bring these two branches closer. His argument is that there is much closeness between these sister disciplines of anthropology. First, both had a holistic approach to primitive people or other cultures.
Both have the same methods of study. And, then to argue that both are antithetical or at best independent disciplines is erroneous. He suggests that there cannot be a culture without a social structure and vice versa. He observes:
If, however, one were not to grant the assumption that anthropology need be limited to the study of culture on the ground that such limitation is impractical and unintelligible and were to maintain instead that cultural phenomena and social systems are internally related, then the way would be prepared for a holistic approach which studies human social and cultural phenomena as functional wholes.
It must be admitted that social anthropology and cultural anthropology are two autonomous branches of anthropology. Though there is some overlap in scope and subject-matter, there is a basic difference in their emphasis. We again quote Bidney and say in his words:
Social anthropology and cultural anthropology are then understood as two branches of a common discipline of anthropology concerned with the study of man and his cultures in society.