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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. 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.


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I read this book when I was sailing to Brazil - achieving a lifelong ambition and leaving the rat race for a year or thereabouts. So, I was ready for this, with an open mind (eventually 78 nights at sea, many of them on my back looking at the stars). So, what about the book?

Completely different to On Love and The Consolations of Philosophy (thanks Peter at congnatum.com for putting me on to Alain de Botton), the basic idea that our current system of measuring people on a scale of wealth (and, arguably, fame), is purely a fashion.

There are other scales: holiness; fighting prowess and so on, and at different times in history, and in different cultures, having currency was not important.

I got my head around that, and it resonated with me. My status anxiety faded. Now I just need cash for food, not status ;-)


مشاهده لینک اصلی
What a perfectly delightful book - well-written, thoughtful, careful and creative in its interaction with history, and replete with well-chosen quotations. Not a full length essay, but pieces of ideas that fit into a kind of argument quite nicely. The first five chapters include the causes of status anxiety (lovelessness, expectation, meritocracy, snobbery, and dependence) and the second half examines potential solutions (philosophy, art, politics, religion, bohemia). He early on defines status anxiety as @A worry, so pernicious as to be capable of ruining extended stretches of our lives, that we are in danger of failing to conform to the ideals of success laid down by our society and that we may as a result be stripped of dignity and respect; a worry that we are currently occupying too modest a rung or are about ot fall to a lower [email protected] (vii-viii)

This is not memoir, we do not get the personal reflections and ideas of the author - instead we get a historical/literary examination of the topic. He finds one of the great searches in human life is for the love status is supposed to bring. @To be shown love is to feel ourselves the object of concern: our presence is noted, our name is registered, our views are listened to, our failings are treated with indulgence and our needs are ministered to. And under such care, we [email protected] (6) @We seem beholden to the affections of others to endure [email protected] (9) But while this understanding involves psychology, even more important is our placement in history amid of time of growing expectations for prosperity, the loss of hereditary nobility to merit, and our dependence on corporate entities in a capitalist system (among other things).

These details make our status our own responsibility, but also precarious. His five solutions all create alternate systems of values that allow individuals to create meaning and importance outside a system of wealth and position. Each examiniation, though brief, is multi-faceted, well-illustrated, and encouraging. Alain du Botton does not chose one in particular, but offers them all - there may be limits and suffering in the choices, but they are there as alternatives. A bright, and even wise, read.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Status Anxiety offers a generalized history of Western conceptions of status and the ways that art, philosophy and religion have mediated, supported and challenged these definitions. After several examples chosen from the broadest of time frames, de Botton only briefly mentions how this history can be related to our current time period and doesnt offer any ingenious perspective on how current institutions, behaviors or practices could mediate, support or challenge our current definition of high/low status. His conclusion rings true but only with a vague echo of other more specific analyses by others. He writes, @Status anxiety may be defined as problematic only insofar as it is inspired by values that we uphold because we are terrified and preternaturally obedient; because we have been anaesthetized into believing that they are natural, perhaps even God-given; because those around us are in thrall to @[email protected] or because we have grown too imaginatively timid to conceive of alternatives....there is more than one way of succeeding at [email protected]

مشاهده لینک اصلی
The start of this book posits a very compelling, and interesting, thesis-- that in the western march towards meritocracy, we have created a society where there are @no [email protected] for station in life, causing widespread anxiety and erosion of dignity. If the book had hammered further on this theme, perhaps showing how people create different social lives in order to change their reference points and raise status, or look at social segmentation and the increased preference for anonymous socialization vs physical community, the work would have stayed truer to the theme that made it interesting. Unfortunately it jumps quickly into a surface summary of western intellectual thought, condensing things as complex as religion, art and literature into small chapters with limited ties back to modern status anxiety. Each of these chapters seems like its own essay out of context, and not especially insightful. So my humble advice is read section 1, which does provide good food for thought if too briefly, and then put back on the shelf.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
I enjoy most books with an anti-consumerist bent, and this was no exception. Alain de Botton also talks a lot about great books that try to understand the meaning of life without reference to empty status. Id read some of them and added the rest to my to-read list.

The problem of status, particularly with regards to consumer items is a bit unresolved. If we all lost interest in buying things, Im afraid of what would happen to the economy. In this though, I am my own comfort, because however much I turn up my nose at the empty accumulation of @[email protected] it keeps magically appearing in my house and needing to be decluttered. I suspect that the economy will be just fine for now.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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