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on 27 October 2012
The summary as written on line prepared one for this book. No great surprises. Enjoyable to read if this is your taste in literature
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on 4 December 2015
My favourite Alain de Botton book. This along with how Proust can change your life are his 2 best.
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on 8 May 2009
I borrowed this book at the library, then bought it. In the current climate of superficiality it is easy to loose ones bearings, and this book helps you find them again. Your intrinsic value is not determined by the ever changeing social market and content cannot be found there either. de Botton impresses with clairity and eloquence. Besides, reading this was oddly comforting and definitely grounding. It should be required reading in high school.
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on 16 June 2008
Alain De Botton investigates an interesting subject here. According to me, status anxiety is indeed one of the afflictions many of us suffer from (I count myself among those many) but rarely, if ever, talk about. Perhaps because it is related to envy (as De Botton states) which is after all still one of the cardinal sins and not a feeling one is likely to admit?

The book has a neatly outlined, almost 'scientific' structure: after having given us his definitions of status and status anxiety, De Botton offers 5 probable causes (lovelessness, snobbery, expectation, meritocracy and dependence) followed by 5 possible solutions (philosophy, art, politics, christianity and bohemia), with plenty of historical 'evidence' (references rather) for both causes and solutions. De Botton presents it all in a learned, at times even difficult, style, which is not to say that this is a bad thing. Indeed, to me it was a reminder of the richness of the English language.

I found De Botton's analysis of the whole problem insightful and captivating, although things are off course not always as easy or clear-cut as he would have it. To name but one thing: I can fully well imagine that a bohemian lifestyle can offer an antidote to the current (financial) status ideal, but this ignores the fact that bohemians obviously had or have their own status ideals (the 'misunderstood outsider') which are as capable of inducing anxiety amongst the adherents of the bohemian lifestyle.

But all in all, a very pleasant read on a subject rarely talked about and, even if one does not agree with De Botton's analysis, if the book succeeds in bringing status anxiety a little more 'in the open' that would still be a very worthwhile achievement.
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on 30 March 2004
A book with a simple enough message, padded with a diverse range of learning. De Botton does indeed seem like he's posturing most of the way, but his arguments are compelling and intelligent. Prudent mix of artwork and quotation along the way made the book very enjoyable to read. Actually, his sources are somewhat high-brow considering he is arguing for the abolition of status. I somewhat agree with the previous reviewer that the abolition of status is tantamount giving up our will to live. It seems de Botton failed to consider the most compelling argument FOR status. Hefty price-tag's a deterrent to buying this book as well.
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on 4 July 2016
Good read. And food for thought
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on 30 July 2005
Being a bit of a fan of de Botton's, I was looking forward to reading this. Unfortunately it was a big disappointment.
The book lacks any verve or humour, or even any insight. De Botton seems prone to stating the obvious and uses so much quotation that you can forget he is there at all (at one point he repeats the same quotation within two pages).
I suspect he was commissioned by the TV company to write this for a large sum of money, as it seems so removed from his usually excellent work that I can't believe it's something he really sought to do.
It's been said of de Botton that he hasn't "written a dull sentence in his life", well he's made up for lost time by writing a dull book.
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on 31 January 2010
I truly expected a bit deeper book with more surprises when I got Alain de Botton's book "Status Anxiety" in my hands. I would go as far as to say that he has written this book with eye strongly on the mass-market, even if the ideas presented in this book are not light-weight as such.
Maybe just because of this emphasis on mass market "Status Anxiety" is extremely illuminating, well-written and even fun to read, and I did swallow it few big bites in a few days.
Alain de Botton is getting in this book at the bottom of why we are so anxious and uncertain amidst all this wellbeing and even luxury that surrounds us, but the answer is of course quite obvious.

According to Alain de Botton we are simply paying the price of rising expectations and rising material status with the wellbeing of our psyche.
The system needs us to raise our expectations constantly to produce growth, and in the end we are very easily left at a state where we are never being satisfied.
On the other hand we are constantly watching how others are doing. Our own material well-being can improve tremendously and we can still feel deprivation if the people with whom we want to compare ourselves do succeed in improving their status more than us.
It does not help if there are millions of people who have less, if just the five or ten people who we do see as our closest likes have more.

These facts have of course been well-known for ages or as long as humanity has produced written records of its anxieties. The Greece of Antiquity was a very similar growth-based society, where social and economical status were extremely important.
It is in fact surprising how Alain De Botton has not given room for Epicurus at all in this book, as he was one of the first people to speak for using restraint in material cravings and an concentrating developing ones inner wellbeing.

Alain de Botton gets to more controversial field when he says that feudal societies where psychologically much easier places to live, as one could not affect ones status and one could find contentment in the finality and inevitability of one's situation.
He says that meritocracy and social mobility have created a situation where a person is in a quite new way seen as being personally responsible for the status he or she happens to be in.

The true social mobility is too often only a pipe dream and a person in a difficult starting position in life has in real life very often great difficulty in changing their fate in real way.
Still they are seen as being personally responsible for the social status in which they end up. So a poor person is in a new way personally shamed for being poor.
Alain de Botton gives also some remedies to status anxiety that he sees as a major problem in modern industrialized societies. As the illness is in the mind, the remedies are aimed to the mind also. His medicines are philosophy, art, politics, Christianity and Bohemia. They are all ways of circumventing and denying the status expectations created by our minds and the society.

I must however say that I was a little surprised by the inclusion of Christianity in this lot, even if there has always been a distinctive anti-materialistic streak in Christianity.
Many practical forms of Christianity are however extremely status-oriented, even if in principle there are ideas on offer that can act as a counterbalance for anxiety over ones status that are pronounced in some forms of Christianity.
Philosophy, art and politics have however a clear-cut and meaningful ways of offering routes out of status anxiety, as one can with their aid put the need for the status and needs of the society into better perspective.
They also offer ways to find new to develop one's status in new environments, if one cannot succeed in the primary economical and social arenas of the society.

One can always have consolation that there is always alternative systems of status. These alternative routes can also give one's life new meaning if one is not equipped or willing to succumb one's identity into succeeding in the main rat-race.
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on 30 October 2007
Status Anxiety as coined by Alain de Botton, is probably one of the most important aspects of modern western life, as it is propably one of the greatest causes for unhappiness in us modern supermarket folk.

His book dives deep into this issue, and shows how the lack of Status Anxiety can bring one much more happiness.
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on 3 September 2014
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