Statuses: Bringing Culture to Bear on Everyday Concerns for Sharers and Nonsharers Alike
It has been a central tenet throughout this book that understandings, whether shared by many or few and whether specific or general in their reference, are useful as guides for behavior only as part of a cultural complex, "status," having three distinguishable sets of understandings. These three sets indicate who belongs in the category that is the basis of the status, under what conditions and what combinations with other statuses the one in question operates, and how those in the category can be expected to act and react in various situations and relationships. Through these three sets of understandings working together, culture's elements are brought to bear on individual's interests and problems as well as on social relations. Through their three sets of elements, statuses are a culturally constituted means whereby culture's elements are distributed among group members according to the situations that arise. Through this distribution statuses bring culture's components to bear as guides for behavior in actual circumstances and relationships, thereby mak-
ing culture not a heap of assorted understandings but a useful means of dealing with life.
Without the same emphasis on status as given here, Roberts (1964:438–452) made the general point concerning culture's ability to serve all of a group's members, although most of its elements are shared by only some of them. His view of culture is as an information economy involving storage, retrieval, and decision making. Roberts's approach has been materially elaborated as "distributed cognition" (Hutchins 1985), and recently there has been further development of the concept and an important empirical demonstration of its functioning (Cicourel 1988).