"Status": Culture's Action Arm
The heart of the approach here is what I am calling "status," which is nearer Keesing's use of "role" than any other single concept in his or Goodenough's work (see Keesing 1970:427). The basis for my usage, as for Goodenough's and Keesing's, is Linton's unelaborated notions of "status" and "role" (1936:113–115), but my use of the concepts is much modified and has benefited from the work of the others.
Clearly, an approach to culture's effect on behavior that seeks to examine the complete range of relevant phenomena must include provision for considering the ways behavior is affected by the products of culture as well as by the direct effects of culture itself. As will become clear in the course of this book, especially in chapters 9 and 10, although statuses are complexes of cultural elements and nothing but that, their operation in guiding behavior has vital effects on behavior that are independent of culture's direct influence. In other words, statuses guide behavior, and that behavior, a product of culture but not itself culture, has its own effects.
Statuses are uniquely important to cultural dynamics. They are what might be called "the action arms of culture." Not all of the understandings shared among the members of a group are parts of statuses, but most of them are. Only speech rivals status in the breadth of its influence on life; not even technology surpasses these two potent culturally based sources of influence. Sociolinguists have developed a thriving inquiry into the effects of speech on social life and culture itself, but status has not been so thoroughly studied.
To show how status comes to have so central a part in influencing behavior, it is useful first to consider what exactly "culture" refers to.