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Status Anxiety Book Review

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Published December 12th 2013
Are you a winner or a loser? Who decides?
I'm in my early twenties. This means that some of my friends are finishing master's degrees while others are getting engaged; some are travelling the world; some still living with parents; some raising children of their own. With these achievements splashed all over Facebook and circulating the gossip grapevines, there is endless opportunity for comparison with others, and the inevitable anxiety that follows comparison 'how do I measure up?'

status anxiety philosophy modern book cover review de botton
Segment of the cover of Alain de Botton's book

With the elegant linguistic simplicity that typifies his work, Alain de Botton tackles this subject, which is held privately by all members of the modern Western society status.

'We all worry about what others think of us' says de Botton, 'we all long to succeed and fear failure.' While we may laugh at the pomposity of high-status persons (think of the cartoon judge with his powdered wig and upturned nose), or deride larger questions of life and purpose as meaningless, de Botton challenges us to take seriously our choices and examine the real value of our pursuits.

Status Anxiety is a thorough investigation of this phenomenon throughout history. De Botton analyses our society and the role of status within it, uncovering what status means to us, why we pursue it, and most importantly whether or not this is a good path to follow. The book is carefully divided into very short chapters within a few larger sections, making it the ideal pick-up-and-put-down read, to be returned to time and time again. Often at the end of a chapter or paragraph you'll find yourself, as I did many times, putting down the book in order to give time to your churning brain and the new ideas you are now wrestling with. De Botton is accurate and personal in his examination.

After reading de Botton's book (for what will surely be the first of many times) I am left with some important questions:

1. Whose respect do I seek?
2. Who decides what status means?
3. Can a high-status life also be a good life?
4. When faced with the end of my life, what do I value the most?

How would you answer these questions?
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Why? 'The unexamined life is not worth living' - Socrates
Cost: RRP $22.95
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