70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Confirming and thought-provoking.
This is a feel-good book for anyone who thinks a bit about society and their place in it. Alain de Boton is like an incredibly well-read and eloquent participant in a discussion taking place in your head, confirming and developing so many thoughts and ideas that you've always had but are unlikely to have had the chance to ever analyse properly.
Importantly, the book...
Published on 13 Sept. 2005 by David
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is status really worth having?
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...
Published on 10 Jun. 2004 by gpk2002
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, thought provoking, well written.,
De Botton investigates anxiety about societal status in this book.
He details five causes:
1. Lovelessness: perceptions of place in the world can be a derivative of the love we receive.
2. Snobbery: poverty may cause material problems but snobbery will cause anxiety of one's status.
3. Expectation: expectations of status, directly cause anxiety.
4. Meritocracy: meritocracies remove excuses for failure and thus increase status anxiety.
5. Dependence: we have dependence on our temporal talents, luck, work and global economics. Status anxiety can be determined by things that we cannot control.
Following the causes are five solutions:
1. Philosophy: seek happy mediums and trust in logic rather than the opinions of others.
2. Art: expressions in art such as tradegy or comedy can make us think beyond our status anxiety.
3. Politics: an understanding of politics can help us understand our problems.
4. Christianity: Christianity is a challenge of materialistic ideals by placing value on things that are derivative from the human condition.
5. Bohemia: following the decline of Christianity, Bohemia has in some respects substituted it. For the bohemian, the church has become the cafe. Bohemia too argues a non material philosophy.
It's very important to stress this is not a self-help, or change your life book. It is a philosophical analysis of how objects and properties in society effect perceptions of the self and the anxiety that may cause. While the solutions have not removed the concept of hierarchy, they have provided new types of hierarchy and values whereby those who were not able or did not want to participate in conventional worldly ideals have had other outlets for achieving a happy life.
Like all of De Botton's books, this book is peppered with interesting pictures and quirky facts such as:
1. The word snob coming from the habbit of Oxford and Cambridge universities writing sine nobilitate (without nobility) or s.nob beside the names of students who were not aristocrates.
2. The story of Nixon meeting Krushchev presenting the american Taj Mahal
He also references philosophers and intellectuals, for example:
1. David Hume thought we are more jealous of those close to us.
2. Aristotle belief on social predestination. You could be born a slave and so be it.
3. Locke and Hobbes thought that individuals give up individuality to join societies in return for protection. It was symbiotic relationship between individual and society.
Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, Augustine, William James, De Toqville, Rousseau, Marx, Mandeville, Herbert Spencer, Michael Young, Boltan Hall, La Bruyere, Machiavell, Guicciardini, Kant, Chamford, Voltaire, Schopenhauer, Freud, Bernard Shaw are also referenced when he makes various points.
This is the beauty of De Botton's writing. He takes nuggests of wisdom from a voluminous amout of intellectuals. He then present these snippets in a context which is well argued and makes sense. He's a talented, objective writer who posseses erudite knowledge and an abilitiy to explain succintly. This book is enjoyable read for anyone looking for an interesting and thought provoking examination into an ineluctable aspect of the human condition.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks Alain.......,
As a previous reviewer commented " something about de Botton's writing captivates me..." I feel exactly the same way. This is writer I return to again and again. Not a single sentence misses a beat. I love this book and the impact it has had on my thinking.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but not his best,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable book, even if it does consist of statements of the obvious,
The author examines the thesis that much of the modern world is too concerned with status from several perpectives: historical, religious, philosophical and so on, and suggests ways to avoid the anxiety that results from this status obsession.
Some of us might think it rather obvious that material wealth and status are not the best criteria by which to judge people, that happiness comes from the right state of mind rather than the right state of bank balance, but at least they are points worth making. It's quite an achievement to draw out something so simple and obvious into a 300-page book; Alain de Botton is probably one of the few writers who can manage it and still remain interesting. Yes, there is repetition here, but not too much.
We get into the usual de Botton territory of making practical use of philosophical ideas, and the author also makes some interesting points about the rise of snobbery and the resulting bohemian backlash, with a brief look at alternative lifestyles. I found it quite entertaining.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this,
By A Customer
I have never written a review before, but cannot help remarking on how exciting and challenging this book is. From the first page the author grips the reader with what must be the number one obsession/activity of our time, and the greatest source of unhappiness in the West - and challenges us to live differently.
The text is dense with meaning, succinct and easily accessible - and, while not providing easy or trite answers, helps us recognise other sources of peace, harmony and understanding to help us overcome this cultural obsession.
A must read - it really can change the path of our lives, or at the very least the way way view it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Many ideas within book.,
I found this book well researched and informative-Alain De Botton clearly knows the area of society,class disctinction throughout modern and ancient history well. How in different civiisations have functioned in regards to socital structures over the past 2000 years. A lot of what he writes show how that in many ways the idolization of wealth leads to dysfunction and inequality in society.
Many people now believe this to be true and cause of many problems and civil-unrest-in part due to the banking crash of 2008. He even writes about recession cycles which involve vast amounts of borrowing and then a failure to find buyers to buy the goods they are selling in regards to business and manufacturing. These cycles he writes will continue as people do not accept if the civil or financial model even works properly.
Books like this make me think and wonder.
4.0 out of 5 stars unexpectedly engaging,
Having seen Alain de Botton in the media, I had formed the opinion that his writing would be a bit too pompous for my taste, but in this I have been proven wrong. This book is full of common sense and is an accessible introduction to the illness of our age: materialism and it's attendant symptoms of envy, greed and dissatisfaction. De Botton draws on thinkers and philosophers from the ancient Greeks right through to the modern day and he uses art, literature, advertising and religious works to illustrate the problem and its potential relief. If you have been wondering why our modern world seems to worship footballers and 'celebrities', and if you find it difficult to understand why, when all our material needs are so easily met, so many of us STILL aren't satisfied, this is the book for you.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keeping up with the Jones,
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Very interesting read. Should be read by those who are worried by what people may think of them and should be read by those who know those type of people. It provides valuable insight into the causes of this anxiety.
3.0 out of 5 stars No new ideas, but some elegant expression of old ones,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but left me feeling dissatisfied,
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This review is from: Status Anxiety (Kindle Edition)
This book put into words my anxiety and dissatisfaction regarding some areas of my life where I feel that I do not measure up to the status ideal. It has helped me to understand myself and others better. I was left dissatisfied because I hoped, perhaps unrealistically, that the author would articulate an alternative to bourgeois capitalism, or suggest something more tangible for overcoming status anxiety. Instead he proposes that we seek for alternative for spaces where we can be appreciated in accordance with our own values. Fair enough, I suppose.
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