Difference Between Society and Culture

Nov 20, 2023
Difference Between Society and Culture

Society and Culture: People often conflate Society and Culture, believing they are interchangeable terms. There are, however, subtle distinctions between them that sociologists frequently refer to in their writings or everyday life. Let’s first outline these terms; society refers to places where people live and interact while culture refers to how these people live – including norms, values, mores, and customs – thus providing readers with a basic definition for both terms – hopefully, this article can help readers better comprehend them both!

What Is Society?

Figure-01: Society

Society refers to any group, population, or societal unit where an individual lives and works. When people say society has become more accepting today, they mean the community they reside in – it encompasses all people living within that particular country’s borders. As an example, different populations reside in the US, Japan, and India. People greeting each other differently reveals much about these different cultures – US people shaking hands to greet one another is typical, while Japanese bowing down and Indians folding their arms and saying Namaste are among many examples. You can gain valuable insight by watching how people greet one another in each culture.

Every society has unique cultural practices. They vary depending on where one lives. Some societies may feature the coexistence of multiple cultures which will eventually influence and coexist over time. As mentioned before, societies consist of various social institutions – these being Families, Religious Institutions, Politicians, Economical and Educational bodies. Each institution influences the other; thus maintaining order within society through a balance among them.

What is Culture?

Figure-02 : Culture

Culture refers to a set of behaviors that define socially acceptable behavior within any society or population, including beliefs, values and practices shared among its members. Kissing is often considered part of Western greeting rituals as it is widely practiced for greeting each other with greetings such as bowing or giving handshakes. Kissing can be considered inappropriate behavior in other parts of the world; one example illustrating how culture dictates what people should and shouldn’t do or avoid doing.

Culture refers to normal practices within any society and this example only covers one small aspect. Culture in any community or population can be seen in its traditional products, music and art; these reflect the moral values, beliefs, and practices of society as a whole. You cannot simply refer to something as culture. Culture in society refers to all these components and aspects. Culture has its own history and can be passed from generation to generation through art, music, education, structure, food, clothing literature and poetry.

Society, however, is more abstract. It encompasses laws, government structures and constitutions, family life, men and women working together and all other social aspects that make up our world today. Culture stands in stark contrast to society. Culture and Society should not just be seen in isolation but as interlinked factors that should be examined holistically. Let us now summarize their differences as follows.

Comparison Table:

Aspect Society Culture
Definition A group of individuals who share a common geographic location Shared beliefs, customs, and practices within a society
Focus Organization of individuals Beliefs, values, customs, arts, and practices
Interrelationship Provides context for culture to develop Shapes societal norms and behaviors
Characteristics Social structure, interactions, norms, and values Learned, shared, and evolving over time
Transmission Cultural transmission through socialization and education Passed down from one generation to another
Diversity Different societies can have different cultures Cultures can vary within a single society
Impact Influences culture through social norms and institutions Shapes societal norms, behaviors, and institutions
Examples Nation-states, communities, organizations Native American culture, African-American culture, etc.

Differentiating Culture from Society in Point Form

  • Culture is what controls people’s behavior, whereas society itself is created by and run by people according to their own will.
  • The culture of a group is usually the same, but society includes people from different cultures
  • Culture is a constant from its beginning, but the destruction of society can cause some changes.
  • Culture is the inner view of society, while society is the external outlook of the culture.
  • Culture reflects style, preferences, and lifestyles while society reflects economics.
  • Culture is the glue that holds social structures together while society builds it
  • Culture is used to distinguish one society from another, while society is a collection of people who live in a certain region.

Key Traits

Societies differ from other social groups in various ways. One such characteristic is having a formal structure where different roles and positions can be filled by individuals within society. Furthermore, interactions within this society foster connections among its members as well as foster new ones through exchanges among its members. Finally, societies establish norms and values which define expectations and guide behavior.

Culture can be defined as having these attributes

Societatea Culture is a dynamic component of society with unique characteristics. Culture can first be learned through socialization. Subsequently, members of a community share culture which gives them a sense of identity and belonging. Finally, culture evolves over time in response to shifting circumstances.

Society and Culture Interrelations

Society and culture are inextricably linked, exerting great influence over each other. Culture emerges within society’s framework; in turn, culture influences its norms, institutions, and practices which lead to shared behaviors and beliefs in that particular society. Indeed, one might argue that society and culture are inseparable components of human existence due to such strong ties.

Cultural Transmission and Society Integration

Cultural transmission refers to the transmission of knowledge about culture from one generation to the next in any society. This knowledge may be passed along via oral tradition, education, or socialization and ensures continuity in cultural practices, traditions, values, and traditions.

Cultural Diversity of Society

Cultural diversity is an inherent aspect of society since various groups within a population possess their own customs, traditions, and languages. Such diversity enriches and expands a community’s culture while encouraging cross-cultural interaction and widening people’s horizons.

Influence of Society on Culture

Society plays a vital role in shaping culture. Social institutions, values, and norms help create its identity; while cultural expressions reflect these expectations.

Culture and Society

Culture plays an essential role in society. It influences individuals’ and groups’ social norms, behaviors, and values as well as society members’ beliefs and values. Culture also facilitates institutional development such as education, religion, and governance – essential components of social cohesion.

Influencers on society and culture

Multiple factors affect the dynamics and development of society and culture. These include historical events and geographical locations, economic conditions, technological advances, political systems, and interactions with other cultures – all contributing to making each culture and society unique.

Example of Culture and Society

Consider these examples to help clarify the difference between culture and society, A nation-state such as the United States can serve as an example of society with its complex political systems, social institutions, and legal frameworks; culture in this instance refers to customs, languages, arts, cuisines associated with specific groups within it such as Native American or African-American traditions.

Comparative Comparison Between the Two

Culture and society share many similarities, yet differ significantly in key respects. Culture encompasses beliefs, customs and practices shared among members of a society. Culture thrives best within an appropriate social environment where it influences norms and behavior – understanding these interactions provides us with insight into social life’s complexity.

Relationship between Culture and Society

The Interconnected Concepts of Society and Culture

The role of society as a framework for the expression of culture

1. The social structure, institutions, and systems that culture is embedded in.

2. Social norms, expectations, and values of a particular society influence cultural practices and behaviors.

Culture guides and influences social interactions

1. relationships, and collective behavior in a society.

2. Cultural values and traditions are the basis for social cohesion.

Mutual Influence – Society Shaping Culture.

A. Socialization and Cultural Transmission

1. The society plays an important role in socializing people into cultural norms and values.

2. Social institutions such as the family, education and media shape and transmit cultural practices and knowledge.

B. The society establishes and enforces social norms to maintain social order. 2. Violations to cultural norms may lead to social sanctions or consequences in a given society.

C. Social Structures and Cultural

1. Society creates conditions and structures which influence the development and emergence of cultural patterns.

2. The power dynamics, social hierarchy, and economic system impact the cultural expressions and practices within a given society.

A. Culture influencing society

 1. Diverse cultures coexist in society and contribute to its richness and diversity.

2. Cultural diversity affects social interaction, intergroup relations, and societal dynamics.

B. Cultural values influence societal norms and expectations 

Cultural norms are the foundation for social interaction, roles, and relationships in society.

C. Social Change and Cultural Adaptation

1. Cultural innovations and shifts are often the catalysts for social change.

2. Social movements, activism, and progress in society are influenced by cultural movements and trends.

V. Examples illustrating the Society-Culture relationship

A. Cultural practices and customs influence social events and celebrations.

B. Social institutions such as educational or legal systems reflect and transmit cultural values and norms.

C. Cultural trends and movements that influence societal attitudes and behavior.

VI. Challenges and tensions in the Society/Culture relationship

A. Conflicts and clashes within a multi-cultural society.

B. Resistance to cultural changes and the preservation of traditional social structures.

C. Balance cultural preservation and social progress with social justice.


A. Recap the interconnectedness of society and culture.

B. Recognizing the dynamic relationship and reciprocal nature between these two concepts.

C. The importance of social cohesion and cultural understanding within society.

Examples of Society and Culture

Here are a few examples that illustrate the relationship between culture and society:

  1. Cultural Practices and social celebrations: In most societies, cultural traditions and practices are closely linked with social events and celebrations.
    • Chinese New Year is celebrated with cultural customs such as dragon dances and red envelope exchanges. These reflect Chinese values and traditions.
    • Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a celebration of culture, including vibrant music, parades, and costumes. The festival also showcases the unique cultural heritage of New Orleans.
  2. Social Institutions that Reflect Cultural Values and Standards: Social institutions such as educational systems and legal frameworks often reflect and transmit the cultural values and standards within a given society.
    • In countries that place a high emphasis on collectivism, educational institutions can prioritize cooperative learning, group-based activities and fostering community.
    • Some legal systems may include religious or cultural beliefs in their laws. For example, they might prohibit certain behaviors or recognize specific cultural practices.
  3. Cultural Movements and Social Attitudes: Cultural movements and trends have a significant impact on societal attitudes.
    • The feminist movement has changed societal perceptions about gender roles and expectations. This has led to changes in workplace policies and family dynamics.
    • Environmental movements have raised public awareness of sustainability and conservation. This has led to changes in social practices and policies relating to resource consumption and environmental protection.
  4. Cultural Diversity and Intergroup Relationships: Societies that have diverse cultures are characterized by a variety of intergroup dynamics and relations.
    • In multicultural societies, diverse cultural groups can coexist and contribute to a lively exchange of ideas. This can encourage social learning, appreciation of culture, and creativity.
    • Cultural diversity can lead to problems such as discrimination or cultural clashes. To overcome these challenges, it is important to promote social cohesion, understanding, and inclusivity.

These examples show how culture and society are closely intertwined. Cultural practices, values, and movements shape social interactions, institutions, and dynamics in a society while the society is the framework that influences the development, transmission, and evolution of culture.

Significance of the Study and its Implications

Understanding the relationship between culture and society is important and has many implications.

Here are some important points:

  1. Cultural Competence and social awareness: Understanding the interaction between society and culture improves cultural competency, which is essential in an interconnected and diverse world. This helps individuals navigate cultural differences, understand diverse perspectives, and interact respectfully with people of different backgrounds. It promotes social understanding, empathy, and effective communication between cultures.
  2. Social Policy and Governance: Recognizing that there is a relationship between culture and society is important for both policymakers and governance institutions. To ensure that policies and regulations are effective and accepted, they must take into account the cultural context, norms, and values of a given society. Ignoring cultural aspects can lead to social unrest, resistance, or unintended outcomes.
  3. Intercultural Dialogue & Respect: The relationship between culture and society is emphasized to encourage intercultural dialogue. It creates an atmosphere where people and communities can exchange ideas and respect each other while learning from their cultures. The promotion of inclusivity and understanding between diverse cultural groups can strengthen social cohesion.
  4. Identity Formation and Self-Expression: Culture and society play an important role in forming individual and group identities. Individuals within a given society can feel a sense of belonging and identity through cultural norms, practices, and values. Respecting and recognizing diverse cultural identities helps individuals express themselves authentically, and also contributes to their personal well-being.
  5. Culture and Innovation: The relationship of society to culture affects the balance between innovation and cultural preservation. Although preserving cultural legacy is important for continuity and identity, societies evolve and adapt with time. Understanding this relationship can help societies to navigate the tensions between preserving traditional cultural practices and embracing changes that lead to cultural vitality.
  6. Social Justice and Equality: The relationship between culture and society has implications for equality and social justice. Certain cultural norms or practices can perpetuate inequality or marginalize certain groups in a society. By recognizing and addressing these dynamics, we can promote inclusive social systems and equal opportunities.

The importance of the relationship between culture and society facilitates cultural competency, informs social policy, encourages dialogue intercultural, shapes identities and promotes equality and social justice. This understanding will lead to societies that are more harmonious and inclusive, and value and respect different cultures.


Society and culture are two distinct yet interdependent aspects of human existence. Culture refers to beliefs, customs, and practices shared among a society; both can have a powerful effect on each other – cultural influences can alter norms and behavior while society provides context; understanding these interrelationships allows us to appreciate its richness.