Given this importance, the cultural elements concerned with nuclear family relationships and operation would seem at least as likely to be shared among its members as most other sets of understandings would in this or other sorts of groupings. If culture serves as the basis for group life—and if it does not, it is more than difficult to think what does—it unquestionably serves as the basis for the Swahili nuclear family. To the extent that culture's role in social life depends on sharing, it seems justifiable to expect that as much sharing would be found in the Swahili nuclear family as would be found in most other groups.
In this chapter, I examine the extent of sharing in Swahili nuclear families. This examination assesses the extent of sharing of cultural elements concerned with nuclear family life and relations among all Swahili ("all by all" sharing) and the extent of sharing among individuals belonging to the same nuclear families and among members of the same statuses. The theoretical foundation
for this has been adumbrated in chapter 1 and will become clearer as the data are presented.
It will be shown that three-eights of the beliefs, values, and procedures concerning nuclear family members, their relationships, and the group as a whole are not shared among members of the same nuclear family and that almost half of these cultural elements are not shared among community members who belong to different families. To simplify a bit, the operative (if often disavowed) view of culture and its operation used by social scientists is that people get along with one another and take advantage of the traditional understandings and values that make life possible through sharing these cultural elements with those around them. This sharing was once viewed as greater in "traditional" and "small-scale" societies than in urban and industrial societies, but everywhere it was sufficient to allow explanation to be based on the undoubted similarity in belief and values group members hold. In "complex" societies, the similarity was obscured by variation having limited effect on such groups as families, but in "simple" societies, the similarity is held to be manifest and easily seen. Durkheim's (1961:18) view regarding religion was not different from many others views of culture in general:
. . . the variations of ritual, the multiplicity of groups and the diversity of individuals [makes] the fundamental states characteristic of religious mentality . . . [difficult to find]. . . . Things are quite different in the lower societies. The slighter development of individuality, the small extension of the group, the homogeneity of external circumstances, all contributes to reducing the differences and variations to a minimum. The group has an intellectual and moral conformity of which we find but rare examples in the more advanced societies. Everything is common to all.
The classical and still powerfully influential view is that social life must be understood in the light of all, or at least all relevant , beliefs and values being uniformly shared among all group members. As was noted in chapter 1, a number of students of culture have shown that culture is not , in fact, universally shared. These findings have not, however, displaced the general explanation of culture's effectiveness as due to "shared beliefs and values."
As Holland (1987a :234) points out, some of what appears to be lack of sharing may not really be that but rather contextual differences, differences in expression, or simply errors. But the existence of these false appearances of variation does not gainsay the results of the growing number of studies that show real differences in the beliefs and values held by members of the same group. As seen in the proverb that opens this chapter, the Swahili themselves clearly recognize differences in the understandings held by individuals even if not all social scientists do.
The fact that sharing is limited is true not only of the Swahili but also of other groups, including four directly compared with the Swahili as concerns
the culture of nuclear family life (Swartz 1982a ). These limitations, moreover, are not limited to the complete inventory of a group's culture but also occur as concerns sharing among members of the same status categories. This fact presents difficulties to the position, first advanced by Ralph Linton (1936) in his formulation of "status" and "role," that regardless of limits in general sharing, sharing within social categories was sufficient to account for culture's effectiveness.
Individuals may not, according to this view, share everything with everyone else, but those with the same rights and responsibilities (i.e., the members of the same status) share the cultural elements concerning those rights and responsibilities. Put otherwise, this position holds that the members of the same status do share the cultural elements concerned with that status with one another even if these elements are not completely shared with those in different statuses. To be concrete, this view holds that mothers may not share all the beliefs and values concerning being a father, but the mothers do share with one another the cultural elements concerning being a mother.
Rather startlingly, the data presented here and elsewhere (Swartz 1982a ) suggest that even this modified view of sharing is inaccurate and, therefore, cannot be used as the basis for understanding the ways culture works. It would not be startling to find that mothers share the cultural elements concerned with the father status less than fathers do, but it is contrary to the Linton view of status to find that sharing among mothers is a good deal less than complete even as concerns the understandings directly involving and concerning the mother status itself. In fact, in many cases, sharing among individuals not belonging to a status about issues concerning the status is greater than sharing by status members.
This suggests that a sound view of culture's operation needs to proceed not only from an understanding of the limits in cultural sharing generally but also with attention to the incomplete sharing even among members of the same statuses.