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Status Anxiety by Alain De Botton

Status Anxiety (2002)

by Alain De Botton

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Generally I enjoyed the entire book, but not surprisingly, some parts grabbed me more than others. What I'm likely to remember the longest is de Botton's explanation for why we've come to associate poverty with moral failure (our belief that the poor are poor because they deserve it and that helping them is rewarding bad behavior). The book is divided into two parts. In the first half, de Botton looks at what he sees as the causes of social anxiety: lovelessness, expectation, meritocracy, snobbery, and dependence. I thought this was the stronger half of the book. He combines historical survey and present-day observation to make his points, all of this in small sections punctuated with many photographs, so that you have plenty of opportunities to stop and think about what he's said.

The second half of the book is devoted to five solutions: philosophy, art, politics, religion, and bohemia. I suspect these are imperfect solutions because (except for bohemia and maybe philosophy) they weren't specifically designed to be solutions: they exist for other reasons entirely and sometimes happen to counter status anxiety as well. As I read on, I was hoping that de Botton would offer suggestions on how to "use" them more effectively, either on a personal level or as a society, but I didn't find much of that. Still, he's written a good introduction to the entire issue, and it's a readable and interesting book. ( )
  Silvernfire | Feb 28, 2015 |
I don't know what I was expecting when I picked this up, a lighter read, I guess. Instead de Botton from philosophical and historical perspectives analyzes the various ways in which humans worry about measuring up by whatever standards and customes of the day and locale. Indeed the main point de Botton makes is how entirely subjective those standards are, shifting with all the fickleness of hemlines, when you get right down to it. Philosophy, Art, Politics, Christianity and Bohemians--each having their own (ever-shifting) slant on what constitutes high status are all examined (Bohemian way of life separated from art as a style of living that tends to produce and attract artists, but a style that only emerged in response to the emerging bourgeois class in the early 1800's). A flaw in the book is that de Botton only seems to consider Christianity -- as 'the' western influence on the problem of status anxiety, although I am sure it plagues other cultures and that other religions seeks to balance and redress and shift the emphasis of just what might define status. He does make an interesting connection between Christianity and the idea of the vanity of permanence, which translated interestingly, for some artists, into an obsession with ruins (including 19th century artists imagining the future ruins of London) -- which made me think of our current mania for dystopic books, for the earth in ruins. Some connection is there, I expect, deserving of more thought than I am likely to give to it, but I will say that a significant number of dystopic books include repressive religious societies. He reminded me how easy it is to forget that politics consists of ideology--and ideology while it pretends to be fixed is anything but. Bohemians offer another way of being in the world, although he points out they tend to gather and associate with one another because it is very difficult to sustain a way of life that goes so against the 'norm' (think Provincetown, Big Sur, etc) Anyhow, it is fairly dry, yes, but also illuminating and thought-provoking. I can't say I had any huge revelations reading it--more affirmation of things I've thought already put in a particular context.
**** ( )
  sibyx | Feb 23, 2015 |
Nothing particularly earth shattering or revelatory here (in fact you're likely to spend your time questioning and challenging quite a lot of the rather bold historical assertions here) - but it's timely philosophy lite for the somewhat bemused. If you're suffering from a vague feeling that things aren't quite what they should be, then this is a good read to make you realise that they were never going to be...
  otterley | Sep 7, 2014 |
An organised book that unpacked many aspects of anxiety from the perspective of causes ( loneliness, snobbery, expectation, meritocracy, dependence. He then looks at solutions . An interesting book that causes the reader to reflect on their own beliefs.
  Annabel1954 | Jul 26, 2014 |
With its short chapters this makes for great toilet reading. More than that though, I find de Botton to be one of the most inspiring authors. He's got a knack of bringing the works of philosophy down to our level. ( )
  garysmeade | Jul 17, 2014 |
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There are common assumptions about which motives drive us to seek high status; among them, a longing for money, fame and influence.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375725350, Paperback)

Anyone who’s ever lost sleep over an unreturned phone call or the neighbor’s Lexus had better read Alain de Botton’s irresistibly clear-headed new book, immediately. For in its pages, a master explicator of our civilization and its discontents turns his attention to the insatiable quest for status, a quest that has less to do with material comfort than with love. To demonstrate his thesis, de Botton ranges through Western history and thought from St. Augustine to Andrew Carnegie and Machiavelli to Anthony Robbins.

Whether it’s assessing the class-consciousness of Christianity or the convulsions of consumer capitalism, dueling or home-furnishing, Status Anxiety is infallibly entertaining. And when it examines the virtues of informed misanthropy, art appreciation, or walking a lobster on a leash, it is not only wise but helpful.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:44 -0400)

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"This is a book about an almost universal anxiety that rarely gets mentioned directly: an anxiety about what others think of us; about whether we're judged a success or a failure, a winner or a loser. This is a book about status anxiety." "Alain de Botton, asks - with lucidity and charm - where worries about our status come from and what if anything we can do to surmount them. With the help of philosophers, artists and writers, he examines the origins of status anxiety - ranging from the consequences of the French Revolution to our secret dismay at the success of our friends - before revealing ingenious ways in which people have learnt to overcome their worries in their search for happiness. We learn about sandal-less philosophers and topless bohemians, about the benefits of putting skulls on our sideboards and of looking at ruins." "The result is a book that isn't just highly entertaining and thought-provoking, but genuinely wise and helpful as well."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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