Basic Concepts in Anthropology and Sociology

Subject: Sociology

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Society is a union in itself, the organization, some of formal relation in which associating individuals are bound together. There are different type of social system in which individuals are interacting directly or indirectly. They form a group of community and follow group shared norms and values. In that particular society, they practice different culture with certain role and responsibility. Their identity and status are determined by social class.
Basic Concepts in Anthropology and Sociology


A society is a system of structured social relationships connecting individuals together according to a shared norms or culture. A society is a formal organization set up to achieve some specified ends. Aristotle said, ”Man is a social animal". Therefore, the man makes the society and cannot live alone. A society is generally conceived of as a human group which is relatively large, relatively independent or self-perpetuating in demographic terms and which is relatively autonomous in its organization of social relations.

Characteristics of Society

  • A collection of individuals.
  • Mutual interaction and relationship among members.
  • Society is composed of both likeness and differences.
  • Society is dynamic or changeable in its trait.
  • Social control rules and regulations.

Social System

Social system is a widely used term in the modern sociological approach. A system is any collection of interrelated parts, object, things or organ. A social system implies stable interconnection between institutional patterns of society. A social system is a system constituted by the interaction of a plurality of individual actors whose relations to each other are mutually oriented that is defined and mediated by the system of culturally structural and shared expectation.

Characteristics of Social System

  • A social system consists of two or more individuals among whom we find and establish the pattern of interaction.
  • Individuals in this system behave in accordance with their shared cultural norms and values.
  • Individuals in this system act together in persuade of common goals or rewards.
  • Individuals in their action take account of how the others are likely to act or behave.
  • The term social system denotes a sociological concept that is used to study society.


Community is an area of the social living mark by some degree of social coherence or solidarity. It is the smallest territorial group that can embrace all aspects of social life. It is a human population living within a limited geographic area and carrying on a common interdependent life. It is a social group with some degree of we feeling and living in a given area. It is a set of social relationship that takes place wholly or mostly within a locality.

Characteristics of Community

  • Common locality, geographical area.
  • Community sentiment.
  • Stability, permanency.
  • A group of people of likeness, equal interest.
  • A particular name, identity.

Social norms

Social norms are the specific cultural pattern formed to behave in a given situation which gives direction to act and interact with each other and teach us what we should do or should not do. Norms are learning by self-observation of culture, studying legal or religious texts books as well as in school and by pair group. Norms govern every society so if anybody violets derived norms s/he will be sanctioned by any social institution.

Social Values

Values are culturally shared beliefs about idle, goals and behaviors which serve as the standard for social life. Values are abstract and they define what is desirable and morally correct as well as right and wrong. The process of socialization also helps to internalize the values of a cultural group. So, the social values guide the life of a person in a society. Some of the examples of values are like respect for human dignity, scarifies, cooperation and so on.

Characteristics of Social Values

  • Values are universal.
  • Values are general guidelines for individuals.
  • Values give the concept of goodness and badness according to the culture of a society.
  • Values try to bring uniformity among its members in a society.
  • Social values are dynamic and different in different societies.

Social Status and Role

How the people identify a person in their society and family, is his status and what the person does in life to maintain his status, is the role. So, the status placement is related to the identity of an individual and the role is related to the responsibility. Social status is the position of identification of an individual in the society. It shows the degree of his/her position at his/her home, working area and community.

Characteristics of Social Status

  • Social status is a universal system.
  • Every status has definite role and responsibility.
  • Social status is changeable and non-changeable.
  • One person may have several status at a time and also in different time.

Characteristics of Social Role

  • Social roles are universal.
  • Social role is voluntary as well as involuntary.
  • Social roles are greatly influenced by social status.
  • And individual can have the different role at a time.

Social Class

Class is the social structural positions where groups or individuals whole relates to the economic, social, religious and cultural resources of the society. Those who possess the high resources come to be in higher class and those who don’t possess the resources come to be in lower class. The class of a group or an individual influences the accessibility to the quality education, health status, quality of food, recreation etc.

Features of Social Class

  • Social class is universal, existence in all societies.
  • The class structure is open and dynamic, flexible and changeable.
  • The class is achieved status, gain by personal efforts.
  • Hierarchy of groups, higher/middle/lower.

Social Group

A group of individual having direct or indirect social relation and interaction to each other can be termed as a social group. Any group has a common interest and culture within certain principles, norms, and values, roles and rules that can form a social group. To be a social group there must be social interaction. It can be either big or small.

Characteristics of Social Group

  • A collection of individuals
  • Group norms and rules
  • Size of groups
  • Common interest
  • Mutual cooperation and interaction

Social Organization

Human society is an organizational society. We not only live in, belong to and work for the organization but also satisfy most of our desires and fulfill our aspiration through an organization. The term is generally used to mean an association or an associational group. In a broad sense, it refers to a formal or complex organization. It is the result of the shared activities and understanding of the people.

Characteristics of Social Organization

  • Social organizations are not functioning in the same way in all societies.
  • They are not found in equal number everywhere.
  • It defers with the extent of accumulation of culture.
  • They are not only multipurpose in nature but also universal.
  • It may be formal or informal in nature.


Culture is the products of human activities and their corresponding changes in accordance with time and need of human beings. The man is not only a social being but also a cultural being. A man is born as animal being and becomes the human being through culture. What man does, uses, follows, beliefs, discovers all are the conceptions of culture. It covers all sides of our social life and practice of human kind. So, culture includes both material and non-material aspects of our life.

Characteristics of Culture

  • Culture is dynamic in nature.
  • Culture is transmissive.
  • Culture fulfills human needs.
  • Culture is social, not individual.
  • Culture differs in different societies.
  • Culture is an integrated system or complex whole of a society.


The term ‘Caste’ is taken from the Spanish word'casta',which means species and race. In Hindu society caste rank is hereditary and linked to occupational pursuits. Caste system is that kind of social hierarchy based on genetic characteristics in which the members of one group are different from the members of the other regarding race, face, structure and so on.

In the late Vedic society, four varnas were defined to show the caste hierarchy. The division was mostly based on the division of labor and occupation. Brahman on the top and Chhetriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras respectively. In the ancient classical literature, caste system has been explained as divine creation of the godly power. According to myth, Brahmans were believed to be born from mouth of the god, Chhetriyas from hand, Vaishyas from thigh and Sudras from foot.

Caste is a system of stratification in which mobility up and down the status ladder, at least ideally may not occur. – A.W Green

According to Dictionary of Anthropology - Castes are corporate social units defined by decent, marriage and occupation.

According to Lundberg - A caste is a category whose members are assigned a permanent status within a social hierarchy and whose contacts are restricted accordingly.

Characteristics of Caste

  • Caste is an ascribed status.
  • Vertical division.
  • Restriction on food habits.
  • Restriction on social mobility.
  • Civil and religious privileges.
  • Rigid and closed system.
  • Concepts of purity and impurity.


An ethnic group is a social division of a group of people who shares common culture, language, norms and values. It has a common consciousness towards their culture and existence. If there is ethnic diversity in a nation, there will be automatically diversity in culture, tradition, language, feasts, and festivals. In Nepal, there are about 100 of such ethnic groups whom we say the nationalities. Nationalities are that community who has its own mother tongue and traditional culture and don’t fall under the conventional fourfold Varna of Hindu Varna system or Hindu hierarchical caste structure.

Oxford dictionary of Sociology - Individuals who consider themselves, or are considered by others to share common characteristics which differentiate them from the other collectivities in a society, within which they develop distinct cultural behavior.

An ethnic group is a distinct category of the population in a larger society whose culture is usually different from other. - Morris Ginsberg

Characteristics of Ethnicity

National Committee for the development of Nationalities, Nepal has featured the following characteristics:

  • Those who have their distinct cultural identities.
  • Those who have their traditional languages, religions, customs and culture.
  • Those who have written or oral history of their own.
  • Those communities who have the notion of we/us.
  • Those ethnic groups who have no pivotal or decisive roles to play and exercise in the politics and administration of modern Nepal.
  • Those who are the indigenous or native people of Nepal.


Gender is a social role of male and female in the society whereas sex is biologically determined. So gender is socio-culturally constructed. Gender roles are determined to an individual either male or female through the process of socialization that one learns to be male or female. Sociologists use the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ to distinguish sex identity from learned gender roles. One is born as ‘male’ or ‘female’ but becoming a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ is the result of social and cultural usages that governs man’s or woman’s behaviors. So, gender roles are the tasks and activities that a culture assigns to the sexes.

Ann Oakley speaks - We need an ideological revolution, a revolution in the ideology of gender roles current in our culture, a revolution in concepts of gender identity.

The term gender is used to refer to behaviors differences between male and female that are culturally biased and socially learned. We will, therefore, reserve the term ‘male’ and ‘female’ for sex differences that are biologically in origin while using the terms ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ to refer to the gender differences that are social in origin.- Appelbaum and Chambliss (sociology, 1995)

Characteristics of Gender

  • Gender is socially constructed.
  • Gender roles are dynamic.
  • Gender roles vary from society to society.
  • Gender roles determine life chances.
  • Universal exploitation of women through patriarchy.
  • Construction of gender role through human history.


Khatri, Prem Kumar, Elementary Sociology and Anthropology XI, Bhundipuran Prakashan, Kathmandu

Sharma, Kamal Raj, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology inNepal-XI, Sunrise Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., Kathmandu

Sitaula, Mohan Kumar, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology-XI, Ekta Books and Distributors, Kathmandu

Things to remember
  1. The society is the larger group to which an individual belongs.
  2. A social system consists of two or more individuals among whom we find and establish the pattern of interaction.
  3. A social group is a system of social interaction.
  4. Organization refers to an aspect of interaction system.
  • It includes every relationship which established among the people.
  • There can be more than one community in a society. Community smaller than society.
  • It is a network of social relationships which cannot see or touched.
  • common interests and common objectives are not necessary for society.

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