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Status Anxiety

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  9,824 ratings  ·  810 reviews
Anyone who’s ever lost sleep over an unreturned phone call or the neighbor’s Lexus had better read Alain de Botton’s irresistibly clear-headed new book, immediately. For in its pages, a master explicator of our civilization and its discontents turns his attention to the insatiable quest for status, a quest that has less to do with material comfort than with love. To demons ...more
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published (first published 2004)
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3.90  · 
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 ·  9,824 ratings  ·  810 reviews

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Tom LA
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Status Anxiety" by Alain De Botton is a sparkly book that, for the most part, I enjoyed immensely. However, like other readers, I have some problems with it.

First, a gentle reminder to everyone who approaches a "philosophical" book like this one: all this rationalizing of reality can be helpful sometimes, but it is often overestimated, especially by academics. Even though it should be obvious, people tend to forget that reality stays exactly the same, with or without philosophical analysis. Th
Feb 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: brad
Shelves: 2008
this book claims to be absent any original ideas. It cites long (and I mean long) standing philosophical precepts, draws on well worn wisdom and largely repeats what has already been said.

what's remarkable then is that it does so in such a clear and erudite manner that nearly every part of it--and it follows the whole would--makes sense. fundamentally.

it offers no cure for status anxiety (as there isn't one) but it does give great insight into its roots, and some of the ways people have managed
Corey Fry
Jul 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a job
I loved this book. However, if you're going to read it, be ready to analyze your life, question your ambition and search for ways in which you can better treat your fellow humans.

I love comparitive philosophy. I especially love it when it's well-researched and well-written. Alain's style is conversational and informative but he doesn't come of sounding academic and esoteric. You learn from his research that our modern day obsession with 'stuff' isn't a modern convention.

I loved this book and re
Matt Harris
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I drop my daughter off to her Early Learning Centre in the mornings, I sometimes hop out of the car and away from it with her as quickly as I can. Anxiety about my old Toyota Corolla with the salt-affected roof, and the missing wing mirror actually produces changes in my behaviour which have been frustrating, annoying me. These parents at my daughter's ELC have Mercs, Cayennes. At the very least; large, clean, new cars.

It was with this particular instance in mind that I approached Status A
Nov 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I've read other books by de Botton and (unlike some readers) enjoyed his chatty style and self-deprecating anecdotes. This book is less personal and has more of an essay feel, but the modus operandi is still graceful, readable synthesis and organisation of material from various philosophers. He aims to explain and offer relief for 'status anxiety' in a culture, 'the West', where status is conferred by wealth. I found this book helpful, as I quickly realised that I can explain my attitude to 'Wes ...more

Underwhelmed. Botton is erudite, eloquent, wide-ranging, interested and interesting. He claims that we are consumed by status, and status anxiety, because we lack something more profound than the material satisfactions can hope to be. Veritas. He offers quite a few alternatives to the snobbery and mendacity which is obvious to many, if not most, in conspicuous consumption.

But that's sort of the problem- it's all possibility, perspective. Botton diagnoses the problem, surely, and has a lot of le
Simon Eskildsen
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason, I haven't been able to get my hands on a Kindle edition (Amazon doesn't seem to have it), so I finally bought the physical book since a friend of mine has been raving about it for years. This book is an extremely sensible historical exploration into the question: How did we become so tied up in status? Why do we make decisions that undermine our long-term happiness to elevate our status? Happiness is something like success / pretentions, so either, you try to succeed more, or yo ...more
Bill Kupersmith
This is a most wonderful book & I am most grateful to Sara my GR & real-life friend for steering me to it. It did not tell me anything I'd not known before, but it organized & put everything together to yield excellent & valuable insights. It may look as if I took forever to read it but actually I never read more than a few paragraphs @ a time while on the elliptical trainer. One of the insights I found most clarifying was that in Antiquity & the Middle Ages when the status o ...more
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

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 dra
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought it was good but not amazing when I read it, but now that a few months have passed I think of it fairly often. I ended up quoting it in my book and it turned me on to a handful of other writers I now like (and Gustave Dore's awesome drawings of future cities in ruins from the 1800s). The book can be a bit dense at times and I think that is why I had trouble with it at first, but it is full of important digressions and memorable lessons. For instance, the purpose of tragedy in Greek soci ...more
Frieda Vizel
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a delightful book! So original, thought provoking, even feel-good. I listened to it on Audible and ordered the paper copy, which will be treated to a magic marker's worth of highlighter ink. Maybe I'll just highlight the parts I won't expect to return to in the future. To my poor friends: prepare to suffer through quotes with author attribution in an excellent French accent. "Doo Bootooon."

The book deals with the human need for love - love of society - a need we still dress up in feigned i
Chris Gottlieb
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 e ...more
Sep 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting. I don't tend to read this kind of thing, but I saw his TED talk about status, and despite status being something I don't think about a lot, his delivery was interesting and he had some solid ideas.

The book's a short philosophical exercise that goes through causes, and then solutions, of anxiety we feel about status. Both run the gamut from religion, politics, lovelessness, history, and other ways of looking at how we've looked at life over the last couple millennia. Do we pu
James Marinero
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when I was sailing to Brazil - achieving a lifelong ambition and leaving the rat race for a year or thereabouts. So, I was ready for this, with an open mind (eventually 78 nights at sea, many of them on my back looking at the stars). So, what about the book?

Completely different to 'On Love' and 'The Consolations of Philosophy' (thanks Peter at for putting me on to Alain de Botton), the basic idea that our current system of measuring people on a scale of wealth (an
Who said "comparison is the thief of joy"? If they hadn't, Alain de Botton would, as here he argues that most of our misery comes from the constant comparison of ourselves to others -- to their lives, their wealth, their accomplishments. A book addressing that -- marshaling philosophy, art, and religion to diagnose and combat the problem -- is arrestingly relevant these days, as it's never been easier to compare ourselves with our friends, our neighbors, and the people who we went to high school ...more
Neeraj Krishna
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Many of the most satisfying art works don’t feature exalted or rare elements; they are about the ordinary looked at in a special way, with unusual sincerity and openness to unvarnished experience.”
- The School of life.

The ideas presented in the book are certainly not new or out-of-the-box. de Botton emphasizes on the blatant experiences which we glaze over mindlessly. And this Inflection and emphasis, through thorough scrutiny has given and changed the meaning of the otherwise present-but-unnot
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a perfectly delightful book - well-written, thoughtful, careful and creative in its interaction with history, and replete with well-chosen quotations. Not a full length essay, but pieces of ideas that fit into a kind of argument quite nicely. The first five chapters include the causes of status anxiety (lovelessness, expectation, meritocracy, snobbery, and dependence) and the second half examines potential solutions (philosophy, art, politics, religion, bohemia). He early on defines status ...more
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The start of this book posits a very compelling, and interesting, thesis-- that in the western march towards meritocracy, we have created a society where there are "no excuses" for station in life, causing widespread anxiety and erosion of dignity. If the book had hammered further on this theme, perhaps showing how people create different social lives in order to change their reference points and raise status, or look at social segmentation and the increased preference for anonymous socializatio ...more
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Status Anxiety offers a generalized history of Western conceptions of status and the ways that art, philosophy and religion have mediated, supported and challenged these definitions. After several examples chosen from the broadest of time frames, de Botton only briefly mentions how this history can be related to our current time period and doesn't offer any ingenious perspective on how current institutions, behaviors or practices could mediate, support or challenge our current definition of high ...more
Ericka Clouther
I enjoy most books with an anti-consumerist bent, and this was no exception. Alain de Botton also talks a lot about great books that try to understand the meaning of life without reference to empty status. I'd read some of them and added the rest to my to-read list.

The problem of status, particularly with regards to consumer items is a bit unresolved. If we all lost interest in buying things, I'm afraid of what would happen to the economy. In this though, I am my own comfort, because however mu
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shinynickel
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. de Botton uses his usual clear and accessible style of philosophizing to dissect just why it is we never seem to be happy where we are, and just what it is that makes us always want more. This is one of those books that should be read once every year. de Botton is probably my favorite living author, and this book hit me at just the right moment in my life, but I suspect it will be relative and useful to me my whole life long.
Rory Diamond
I thought Status Anxiety gave a really good historical and philosophical background of why status anxiety exists, and how it has progressed throughout the years. I wish it touched more upon status anxiety as a modern phenomenon and offered solutions of how to circumnavigate it in 2017. I found the text at times used unnecessarily difficult vocabulary-- though perhaps that is just the author's style. Kudos to Betel for the heady rec.
Eva Forslund
While I did underline many sentences, I was utterly disappointed. I love alain de botton and I expect the most from him, so maybe this rating is unfair. I just felt like it was unstructured, many parts I just skimmed through, and I expected more analysis on how status anxiety works and less about how it exists in all cultures. Last two pages were good as well as the first 50
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So interesting!!
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A kind and relevant reminder, which is sympathetic and a thoroughly useful self-help book in grasping and dealing with the insecurities which affect most people regardless of their social status. An exploration of the possible causes and solutions to status anxiety. Initially, exemplified by the end of unconditional love leading to lovelessness. Secondly by snobbery which is characterised by childish often juvenile notions of belonging such as only being interested in people who are not interest
Todd N
Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This is the second of two books by Alain de Botton that I've read this month. The first one was about the ability of philosophy to console us during life's trials. This book is an examination of the causes and potential cures for social anxiety, which he defines as "a worry ... that we are in danger of failing to conform to the ideals of success laid down by our society and that we may as a result be stripped of dignity and respect."

Living in hypercompetitive Silicon Valley and having experience
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was published in 2004 ( and they still paint a vivid picture of today's modern world. It is also called "affluenza", a form of overstimulated consumerism based on self-fashioning which has already do its job by spreading to the developing worlds.

In the personal life sphere, the status anxiety is fueled by the slogan such as "be the best you can be", the triumphant pursue of American dreams of bigger house, better clothes, and most often the envy
Adam Wiggins
Status is a cornerstone of human existence. Absolutely everything we do — going to school, getting a job, finding a mate, socializing with friends — is dominated by what standing we have in the groups of people that we are doing these things with.

I wish I had understood this earlier in life, because it explains so much about human behavior: schoolyard bullies, how people flirt in nightclubs, and the rituals of kings, governments, and religions.

A major point in the book is that "status anxiety" i
Thomas Edmund
In his 300 page thesis, Alain De Botton provides us with a thorough examintion of status, and the anxiety which stems from not having it. The blurb initially makes a comparison between romantic desire and the desire for status or 'world love', but rather than looking into status desire as an individual trait, the majority of the book explores cultural perspectives on what is considered high-status.

The strongest chapters discuss how we perceive status as a comparative idea, and how what is consid
Aug 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Serena by: Wendy Yu
I had a really great review for this book and then my computer crashed...apologies since this version won't be as good or comprehensive. Overall I'd say that the book was more didactic than I was expecting, but that won't stop me from reading more of his works.

Maybe it's schadenfreude, but there's nothing wrong with validation on our natural human feelings of insecurity, especially given today's economic state. de Botton never gets too preachy as his premise is grounded in several historical exa
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Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday lif
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“That said, deciding to avoid other people does not necessarily equate with having no desire whatsoever for company; it may simply reflect a dissatisfaction with what—or who—is available. Cynics are, in the end, only idealists with awkwardly high standards. In Chamfort's words, 'It is sometimes said of a man who lives alone that he does not like society. This is like saying of a man that he does not like going for walks because he is not fond of walking at night in the forêt de Bondy.” 213 likes
“Not being understood may be taken as a sign that there is much in one to understand.” 184 likes
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