Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Status Anxiety by Alain De Botton

Status Anxiety by Alain De Botton
First published in the UK by Hamish Hamilton in March 2004.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £8.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £8.29 (PB)
Waterstones : from £12.99 (HB)
Amazon : from $2.05 / £0.01 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

We all worry about what others think of us. We all long to succeed and fear failure. We all suffer - to a greater or lesser degree, usually privately and with embarrassment - from status anxiety.

For the first time, Alain de Botton gives a name to this universal condition and sets out to investigate both its origins and possible solutions. He looks at history, philosophy, economics, art and politics - and reveals the many ingenious ways that great minds have overcome their worries. The result is a book that is not only entertaining and thought-provoking - but genuinely wise and helpful as well.

As someone who is consciously trying to step away from the West's predominantly consumer-driven lifestyles I am not De Botton's prime audience for this accessible philosophy work, however I still found a lot to interest me. I particularly liked his wide survey of historical attitudes to social status which looked at examples back to ancient Greece and Rome. It turns out that while what we believe will set us ahead of our peers has changed drastically, our need to consider ourselves just ahead of the pack is one of the basic tenets of our social systems. De Botton quotes from many previous philosophers and writers right back to Socrates, but also taking in the ideas of unexpected thinkers such as Jane Austen. This is one of those books that really needs to be studied as well as just read - although it does work well as a straight read-through - however I am now struggling to recall all the names and ideas that whirled through my brain only a couple of days ago! I would recommend Status Anxiety as excellent food for thought to anyone feeling stressed about 'keeping up with the Joneses' or with a nagging sense that the goal they are desperately striving for isn't perhaps working out to be as satisfying as they had hoped.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Alain De Botton / Philosophy books / Books from Switzerland


  1. Sometimes we don't share someone's philosophy but it doesn't mean we still can't learn something valuable from it! It can be a lot to take in though. It sounds like he brings up some interesting ideas and I agree about the mindset of needing to be one step ahead of people.

    1. I was lent a couple more De Botton books along with this one and his Art Of Travel absolutely chimed with me. Will be reviewing it soon :-)