The subject of the discipline of social and cultural anthropology is the diversity of human cultures and societies. The aim is to understand the multi-layered ecological, economic, political, social, legal and cultural dimensions of human social life within the framework of historical change and the context of translocal and global relations. Social and cultural anthropology not only investigates local communities and the regional, national and global relations of which urban as well as rural populations form a part. Anthropology is also concerned with complex societies, including industrial societies, with international and state organisations, transnational companies, social movements and civil wars. By focussing on local patterns of meaning and practices, by emphasising the comparative perspective and by engaging in the method of long-term Participant Observation, social anthropology has made its mark within the social sciences right from the beginnings of the discipline.
Social and cultural anthropologists not only work within academia. Their expertise also qualifies them for a wide range of non-academic professions and jobs, for example within development agencies, international organisations and various types of associations, in the public and cultural administration, in the media and with publishing houses, or as management consultants.