Status Anxiety

Here is the first part of the documentary, Status Anxiety, based on the book by the same name by Alain de Botton.  Status Anxiety discusses the desire of people in many modern societies to “climb the social ladder” and the anxieties that result from a focus on how one is perceived by others. De Botton claims that chronic anxiety about status is an inevitable side effect of any democratic, ostensibly egalitarian society. De Botton identifies the “causes” of status anxiety as follows: Lovelessness, Expectation, Meritocracy, Snobbery, and Dependence.  He lays out the following “solutions”: Philosophy, Art, Politics, Religion, and Bohemianism.  Consider how status anxiety relates to the “American Dream.”

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2 responses to “Status Anxiety

  1. This is a very on-point analysis on the American society’s behavior towards statuses!

    indeed…
    “everyone hopes to appear what he is not.”
    “in a society of equals, the Americans greater wealth will not necessarily make them happier”
    From afar it all seems like we are standing on level ground when it comes to status but the truth is, this seemingly equal leveling triggers a much more need to have more and be better than the other. For our lack of contentment, it is very sad though.

  2. Blog 1 Justine Pierre
    One of America’s foundational beliefs is that all men are created equal and therefore should have equal rights and opportunities to fulfill their highest potential. This belief allows people to believe that they do not have to accept the social status that they have been born into. In fact, our society highly encourages social mobility as many people strive to attain the American dream. This American dream has to do with acquiring a certain amount of material goods and assets, which has to do with attaining a high class and social status.
    Weber believes that status is associated with social honor and that those with a high status receive a certain type of social honor and recognition. The key factor in America is that people can still be considered high status even if they acquire a great deal of wealth through labor, rather than already owning it or inheriting it. Therefore, many low status Americans compare their social position, with those who have a high status, and sometimes they make it their goal move up socially to gain social honor. When they are unable to do so, a great deal of bitterness arise because they feel as though they have not reached their highest potential and feel very uneasy about their social position. These people feel that they are equal to those with a high status, and should be able to attain the same social status that these high status individuals have.
    Weber also claims that in this “capitalistic culture” many people develop this idea of a “social ethic [that it is] one’s duty in a calling” for one to always acquire or attain a certain amount of wealth. Many people devote their entire lives to consistently gaining a certain amount of wealth, while their “calling” or mission is constantly connected to their profession. These people are generally of a high social status. However, those who are of a low social status sometimes make it their “calling” to completely devote themselves to becoming something, so that they can achieve a social status, even if their aspiration is impossible. In the documentary, the restaurant manager who was devoting his life to becoming a comedian, was being completely irrational and was aspiring for something that was completely impossible for him. However, he refused to accept his mediocre social position and wanted to have a high status like some of the comedians, he watches on television. This constant pursuit for something better can cause “status anxiety” which made this man and many other people completely discontent with their way of life. Even though it is good for us to have dreams and to be equal to one another, it isn’t good for us to constantly compare ourselves with others and be discontent with where we are in life. These constant comparisons can cause us to be anxious about our places in life, and can make us feel empty and incomplete.

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