"Delivery Systems" and Cultural Guidance for Life's Problems
The vital function performed by statuses in distributing culture's elements among actors and situations warrants a brief concluding examination. This distribution depends on the basic fact that in all interaction people are always categorized, by themselves and by others, according to identifying and salience understandings. These latter understandings provide what might be called "the delivery system" for bringing the expectations with which they are associated into the relationships where they guide behavior. Since situations result from an interaction between events and the statuses assigned and assumed by those involved, this process not only assigns particular cultural elements to specific individuals but does it with regard to the problems of the immediate situation.
The statuses people assign one another have expectations that work as the common standards in double contingency and determine to a considerable extent how they treat each other. Thus, a situation involving two men is one of patient care if the assigned and accepted role pair is practitioner-patient and is one of informal chatting if it is baraza member-baraza member. In this way, by agreeing on the complex of understandings that make up statuses—identifiers, expectations, and salience understandings—those in interaction jointly provide a culturally constituted means for the distribution of culture by mainly establishing the situation and by providing guidance for one another based on such sharing of understandings as may be present and effective and on each being willing to adapt to the other's apparent evaluations.
Nor is cultural distribution the only function statuses serve in addition to guiding social relationships. In order for culture's elements to have any utility, those who share them must be able to choose among them, rank them according to precedence, decide which call for or preclude which others, and group them according to similarity and difference. Such organization of culture's elements is a sine qua non of culture's effectiveness in guiding behavior. Cultural organization, like cultural distribution, cannot be understood without close attention to statuses and their operation, especially in guiding social relationships.