The Social Structural Importance of Multiplex Relationships and Their General Expectations
Every status affects all the others directly or indirectly connected to it in role relationships through the presence of the mutual references in the roles' expectations. This is true whether the relationships are simplex or multiplex. The examination of how medical care is obtained illustrated how multiplex relationships such as mother-child affect simplex relationships such as practitioner-patient by leading people to participate in them, but it should not be thought that all influence flows from multiplex to simplex relationships. The influence goes the other way as well. So, for example, the expectations in the statuses in such simplex relations as employer-employee doubtless affect expectations in the statuses of a variety of multiplex relations within the family and neighborhood.
Given this caveat, it is nevertheless true that the statuses in multiplex relationships are particularly important to a community's social structure. Because their general expectations are flexible and inclusive and because, by definition, the relationships involve a number of different domains, it is multiplex relationships that most often bring the effects or products of a wide range of the group's culture to community members who may not share the understandings they rest on. No one in any group has even indirect access to
all the cultural elements available in all of the statuses in the community's social structure, but such access is not necessary to be affected by them. Relations with others who do have access to these understandings, whether direct or indirect, may serve to transmit their effects provided the relations have expectations promoting such transmission.
The hypothesis that has been advanced here is that it is multiplex relations with their general, rather than specific, expectations which do this. The transmission may be through the sort of advising that was seen in Swahili medical care, or it may be through one participant in a multiplex relationship bringing the effects of his or her participation in a quite different relationship to bear on the fellow participant.
The latter can involve a sort of chain reaction effect. For purposes of illustration, imagine that A is in a multiplex relationship with B, B is in any relationship with C, and C in any with D. D imposes expectations on C deriving from relationships D has about which C need have no understanding. The effect of this on C leads him to impose expectations on B who, in turn, knows nothing of their provenance but is affected by them and imposes them on A. A knows nothing of what led B to impose the expectations he did, but A is affected by them nevertheless. Since the A-B relationship is multiplex, the limits to the kind and extent of the influence that B brings into the relationship as a consequence of his relations with C are quite wide. Thus, the imposition of expectations by D affects the relationship between A and B even though neither of them need be aware of the relationship between C and D for this to happen. (See Swartz and Jordan 1976:86–98, for a fuller discussion of this process and an example.)
The point is that through advising and through the sort of chain reaction of expectations, social relationships spread the effects of components of the group's culture so that they affect individuals even if they do not share those components. Simplex relationships can and do operate in these processes as well as multiplex relationships, but the former, unlike the latter, are probably limited to the domains in which they mainly operate, so that, for example, economic relations can only transmit the effects of mainly economic understandings.
This limitation is to be expected since it is the expectations in social relationships that serve to transmit cultural influence to those who may not share the particular understandings that affect them as concerns the matter at issue. Given the central part played by expectations, it must be remembered that it is the identifying and salience understandings that make the expectations effective. These latter status components are the culturally constituted means for promoting the culture's groupwide effectiveness regardless of less than complete cultural sharing.
Multiplex relationships and their general expectations are a particularly important part of this because of their scope and their relative immunity to
the weakening of relations that can result from the failures to meet specific expectations that are inevitable and generally more harmful to simplex relationships. There are failures to meet specific expectations in multiplex relationships, of course, but the broader and more diffuse foundation of these relationships often diminishes the harm these do to the relationships and makes them a more enduring part of the community's social structure.