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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on 10 June 2004
Status Anxiety puts forward a proposition about society that is genuinely compelling and quite convincing. The book follows a logical structure starting with a discussion of the causes of status anxiety and finishes with some inspiring solutions. The text is generally clear and straightforward, although disappointingly has a tendency at times to ramble into unnecessarily philosophical language - destroying the clarity of thought meticulously built up over several pages.
Stick with it though, and you will find yourself thinking more deeply about what status is and whether it is really worth having.
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on 20 March 2007
I'm usually quite a fan of Alain de Botton's writing but I found this book a little disappointing. De Botton has a consistent style and approach: a light-touched, urbane tour of the great minds, usually in search of resolutions to widespread issues or questions, in this case the causes and potential solutions to status anxiety. It is a pick and mix of philosophy, art and economics: not in such large chunks as to be indigestible and sweetened with wit and amusing examples. Alain is a fine writer: he is economical and precise but not mechanistic and he does good anecdote.

Where this book fell a little flat for me was in two respects. Firstly, it seems that Alain enjoys the diagnosis of status anxiety more than the cure. As an acute sufferer, this was a disappointment to me. The parts of the book that came alive were in the first section where the causes of the condition are examined: this is entertaining and will generate empathetic engagement. Less convincing are the outlines of potential remedies (art, philosophy, religion, etc.), maybe because they don't particularly convince me, but perhaps because de Botton is (understandably) more interested in the microscope being focused upon a dissection of human frailty and failings rather than on their remedy. Perhaps also because this is not a serious engagement with what one assumes is sometimes a serious condition. If you have genuine status anxiety, please do not look here for a cure! Fair enough, Alain is not, nor I imagine would claim to be, a qualified psychologist or psychotherapist. However, it does leave the second half of the book a bit humdrum, lacking in insight and maybe sacrificing content for form. Some nice pictures though. I am particularly pleased to have discovered Thomas Jones through this book.

In general, also, I found the book less imaginative and sparkly than his previous works. I would recommend "How Proust Can Change Your Life" and even his first work "Essays on Love" ahead of "Status Anxiety" if you are seeking some entertaining parlour philosophy. They are more playful and thought-provoking.

Got to hand it to Alain though - he is one well-read guy.
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on 17 March 2004
The beauty of The Art of Travel was the way that de Botton intertwined the travel experiences of characters from the last 3000 years of civilisation with his own, present-day experiences. He uses similar figures from history to illustrate and ease our anxieties about status, but fails to link history to modern-day situations in the same engaging way. Apart from the fact that this makes the narrative rather flat, one is unfortunately left with the impression that perhaps de Botton does not experience these anxieties clearly himself. He comes across as the detached intellectual without a true grasp of the realities of modern life.
Never-the-less, interesting subject matter that made me realise that unless you divorce happiness from status, happiness will be a very elusive state of mind.
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on 25 April 2008
I knew this book would involve the history of status and the various fads thoughout the ages as to what 'high status' represented, however was really hoping for more about modern concepts and examples/studies. There were only a few references really, perhaps unrealistically I expected a few chapters. This is an excellent book for anyone wishing to research the historical elements and background though.
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on 3 July 2013
Not sure who the readership of such a book as this might be, but I'll be my bottom dollar that none of them are Bohemians, Christians or MP's. In this respect the 'Causes' of anxiety status far outweigh the so-called 'Solutions'.

In fact, the 'solutions' are so lame that the second part of the book could be removed all together as it is no where near as engaging as the first.

Thought-provoking in parts and okay as a generic overview of societal status throughout the age but not much else.
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on 1 September 2010
Rambles on a bit towards the end about Dadaism, etc - felt a bit like he was trying to make the page count he'd agreed to. Bits of it are very well written - succint and clear. He seems to have an odd relationship with Marxism - grudging acceptance of central tenets, coupled with constant sniping from a position of claimed intellectual superiority. On the other hand, he completely stays away from any of the pseudo-Darwinist stuff about how status anxiety is a consequence of our savannah evolutionary heritage - not even to rubbish it. Oh well, quite an enjoyable read, and nice to see some oldies but goodies (De Toqueville, for example) taken out for a run around the park.
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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2008
This book explores an interesting subject and I'd been wanting to read it for a long time. But there's one unfortunate flaw with it: de Botton. He is the most uninspiring author! He's perfected a curiously dispassionate and humourless delivery. Otherwise known as dull. I think it's called the passive voice; something I thought was going out of fashion. It's not only dull but often verging on the unintelligible. And that's not the least of his sins. He repeats himself endlessly and monotonously. One feels that he repeatedly stretches out one sentence worth of information, one point, into two or three pages. Most of this padding out is achieved by stating the obvious and illustrating one point with four or five examples which are essentially identical. One would suffice. This really should have been edited a lot more ruthlessly and chopped down to half the size it is. (And the glossy paper which makes the paperback weigh 500g[!] is a bit indulgent.) This book deserves 3.5 stars.
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