Status Anxiety

Status Anxiety

2004, Society  -   65 Comments
Ratings: 7.50/10 from 14 users.

Status AnxietyWhy doesn't money (usually) buy happiness? Alain de Botton breaks new ground for most of us, offering reasons for something our grandparents may well have told us, as children.

It is rare, and pleasing, to see a substantial philosophical argument sustained as well as it is in this documentary. De Botton claims that we are more anxious about our own importance and achievements than our grandparents were. This is status anxiety.

Alain quotes philosophical writings, such as Democracy in America, a report by Alexis de Tocqueville on his visit to the USA in 1831. De Tocqueville noted that American equality, notable in those times, was accompanied by a climate of envy.

We jump to present-day USA, and see what, to de Botton, are some awful examples of The American Way. A Christian preaches get rich. A steelworker tells of his insecure life in an industry being closed down through others' love of money.

Our protagonist points out the advantage of high status: those with high status will enjoy the care and attention of the world. Then joins this advantage with the illusion, or attempt at meritocracy in the USA, mentioning Jefferson's notion of an aristocracy of talent.

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65 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Ducaster

    In the 2012 Happy Planet Index, the top five countries are Costa Rica, Vietnam, Jamaica, Belize and Indonesia. New Zealand ranks 24th, the United Kingdom 39th, Canada 58th. Israel, Venezuela, Palestine and Iraq are higher then Australia at, which is in 69th spot, putting it on par with Iran, Serbia and Haiti. The USA comes in just behind Ethiopia at 104 out of 151 countries.

    -New Philosopher #3: Are we Happy Yet? 2014

  2. Yusiley S

    At the very beginning, The Perfect Home Episode 1 part 4, the host speaks about the status of ones home... it is really all about the individual. Some people may find green to be a vulgar and hideous color for a home but for me and my mom (I help my parents to live a nice life & my man likes the calmness of the family homie-ness of sharing a house with older relatives) our house is far prettier to look at as a green color than any other color it had before.... and that house had been in every color imagined. :/ The green goes so well. People who put too much in mind of the appearance of houses in these days are truly shallow folks... seriously... today you ought to be extremely and utter grateful and blessed to have a home at all. You know how many folks are living out in the streets who will kill to have my tiny home with two rooms and tiny bath, kitchen & livingroom? Its why I don't complain over my home... I will complain over my student loans and living expenses (cost to live is ridiculously high), but not my lovely home which I was allowed to decorate it in the way I want it. I could careless what some rich *beep* thinks of it or that is high class/status. >_> I could careless about status. I put more into thoughts of those closest to me not those who I barely know or see everyday. Again, be grateful you have a place at all and forget the rest... Schupperheimer said it best... Peoples' heads are too wretched of a place for true happiness to have a sit in it. Those who rely on the opinions of others, pays them too much honor.

  3. Elenor Nieles

    i like the part where the old people enjoy the day... not minding anything at all... just having fun and relaxing with friends. =)

  4. Gu

    One of the best documentaries on a topic that affects almost everyone in almost every field (from investment banker to basic science researcher) to varying extents!

  5. Rivelino

    excellent documentary. i took a lot of notes.

  6. Jon Kostiner

    This was so relentlessly well-written and interesting... thank you so much for making it available.

  7. mobeen

    awsome doc

  8. AlekNovy

    A lot of the people who deny meritocracy in western countries, do so by using extreme examples.

    -> Yes, it is true that The top 100 richest people on earth got there by luck.
    -> Yes, it is true that the bottom 1% got there due to bad luck.

    However, this is often used to excuse a person who's had every advantage in life given to them (good home, good health), but don't make it.

    People love to use the extremes to justify their own lot. Meritocracy is not perfect (it doesn't apply to the top 1% and bottom 1%), but it does apply to the other 98%. And yes, for us, the other 98%, we are exactly where we deserve to be.

    1. Gu

      If 98% of people think the way you do, we would not be having so much status anxiety in society, would we?

  9. Starry

    Best doco I've seen in truly hit a nerve with me. It is the core of why so many of us are unhappy, running around like headless chickens chasing the next big car/ipod/house/pair of shoes/yadayada to feel like we're worth something to somebody instead of looking inside ourselves and asking what we really want in our hearts. I feel so relieved watching this, like a heavy burden was taken off my soul. I know that's all heavy but, wow, amazing. This inspires me to actually take a chill pill and get off the stupid rat race. I'd now rather be a little poor but have a happy life filled with good memories then a mansion and a BMW with a broken soul.

    1. verseinu

      I couldn't agree more.

      It's almost like we fall into a stupor and don't realize were running on our mouse wheels getting nowhere.

      Whenever I catch myself comparing myself to someone else's apparent success I just stop and ask 'what is success'. I find just asking the question breaks down the illusion that success necessarily means material wealth.

      I think happiness is a far too basic part of our personalities to have it depend on something so superficial as status symbols.

    2. nick-16

      Don't take this in a bad way but I can almost guarantee that within a year you will yet again be a victim to status anxiety just like 98% of the rest of us westerners and want all the things everyone else has. It's all around us. We can't escape it. It's what we're brought up in, and it's becoming the 'norm'. The world's changing as technology evolves, and this is the way it's becoming. Luckily for me, I accept things easy and just get on with it. It would feel natural to me if i viewed my neighbour as an 'equal', and saw he just bought a Ferrari and i felt a little jealous... Why? Because i have high expectations of myself as someone who can achieve this so-called 'success' and would be asking myself why i haven't got one yet. It's just having high ambitions, right?

  10. Janis Paegle

    nice movie, ty

  11. cezy

    I really wish Grover Norquist loses all his money and learns what it's like to be poor in america.
    There's a lot of talk of meritocracy here in italy. In principle it sounds like a good idea, but if we have to end up like the americans, maybe it's better to keep a more classist, but more solidal society. The rich may evade taxes, but at least the poor help each others!
    De Bottom said people need status symbols to be treated with respect. I usually get it by treating well other people first.
    And it is very true that people with low self esteem are usually the most competitive; by bragging about their achievements they are in fact signalling how fragile their mind really is.
    very good documentary.

  12. Lola San

    Anyways, the narrator's quite ignorant. Americans are a want more, need more society. And most people behave according to this "society" SIMPLY because it's the only society they know!! DUH. Hey people there's more planet than The U.S. When people LIVE in other societies, they change. God damn it! My father's in the army, so we move a lot. I have lived in most states of the U.S.. Lived in Canada, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Phillipines and Hawaii. And I gotta tell you, there's more to life than shopping. ;)

    1. NonayaBidness

      I realize that you are rather young, however, you missed the point entirely...Also, your horrible grammar and sloppy syntax makes for very weak comments.

    2. Memento Mori

      How is Mr. De Botton ignorant?
      You appear to have missed the entire point of the documentary and every bit of De Botton's presentation. He was practically spoon-feeding us the fact that Americans are a "want-more, need-more society" as you said.
      If anything, Alain De Botton is far more aware of this fact than many Americans are and he's done a wonderful job of examining the grossly unsustainable life-style that most, if not all, Americans are forced into accepting. Not only is it economically unsustainable, but the psychological trauma of this system is also having an effect on everyone involved.
      You are correct that there is more to life than shopping, but as it stands, Consumption and Consumerism are the norm if only because we've built our entire "empire" upon the very notions.
      But please, do not regard Mr. De Botton as "ignorant", he's quite possibly the most level headed and highly educated man to ever tackle the problem of why American's are so anxious about their status in recent history and he did it in a way that wasn't arrogant nor ignorant.

    3. Katie Land

      I agree. I like any of the documentaries Alain De Botton has been in. He has a very intelligent, likeable quality and always just gives you the facts without tainting the whole thing with his personal opinions.

  13. Lola San

    This pissed me off. I stopped watching after the id*otic so-called motivator said we could succeed by washing his car. That b*stard can go and f*ck monkey mother for looking down on people.

    1. Bomba klatz

      he makes about $2 million a year with that mulah he can just buy someone to F instead of him mom. he is rude and there is a guy, mostly white, washing his car

    2. Desdemone

      You have the attention span and the critical thinking ability of an average American. Congratulations!

    3. RileyRampant

      that's very helpful.

    4. nick-16

      What are you like 14? You're way too young to get your head around anything like this. Like everyone else says you haven't picked up in he slightest what the point is of the entire documentary. I think you should still be watching cartoons until you grow a sense of understanding of human psychology and the way the world works.

  14. Rachelnico

    Such a depressing documentary, after spending so much on my university degree in order to try get a good job it's left me wondering if I'm just a victim of status anxiety or if I truly want to learn and have a job that isn't what I would consider 'boring.'

  15. bbga

    Very interesting doc. Funny, I googled Grover Norquist and discovered some interesting, if not confounding, aspects about him. He has degrees from Harvard, was a co author of the Contract with America (that lovely piece of political gamesmanship from 1994), and is a board member of GOProud (a gay conservative group). Definitely, a ...colorful man.

    Yeah, I agree with some others on here. His comment about Europeans taking land from other Europeans as some form of hypocrisy was...strange and feeble logic. I expect better deductive (and inductive) reasoning from someone who attended Harvard.

  16. maraglasswing

    Oh yeah, "In Europe a lot of property was theft." Because the Americans didn't steal it from the people that were in America before them. Well done.

    1. saintidesheavan

      That just received an audible eye-roll.

      How is it that the British/Europeans are so deluded they can't see they're implicated? How is it possible to deny hundreds of years of purely extractive relationships with "third-world" countries (India, China, any colonized African country)?

      I'm Navajo; most Native Americans know from whence the Mayflower sailed. America didn't fall from outer space.

      Please, get over yourself.

  17. Arnold Rudge

    there is an awsome documentary that fits with this one , Zeitgeist Moving Forward(its on here), it talks about how our society is acctually increasing all this anxiety , but offers a real solution to all this that is well with in our reach. It explores this same issue but looks deeper at its causes and consequences

    1. avd420

      I missed these real solutions you speak of.

  18. beedahosen

    great doc Vlatko......u da man

  19. sensory_1

    "Status Anxiety" There's probably some sort of medication for that.........

    1. PaulGloor

      A good hit on the head maybe.

  20. Anthony Williams

    welcome to the technological dark-age.

    1. Dewitt

      les browns son told me that out of that 37 million he made he only gave his son 5,000 in the last 20years (many of those motivational speakers are like that) the guy that made the book chicken soup for the soul.............the same thing..........not that they owe their familys but gee...........

    2. RileyRampant

      not surprising. he came across as a sadistic bully.

  21. avd420

    A little all over the place but a good doc whichmakes some great points. Not many solutions but I don't need to be fed those anyway.

  22. Jo McKay

    wonderful, beautiful, and exceedingly comforting... Thank you Alain De Botton.

  23. Abba Tijjani

    Im glad people take the time to explore such "intangible issues" because it teaches us a lot more about ourselves. This is a good documentary by any standard and you would certainly pay attention to it if you want to live a fulfilled life. Hardwork does not equal success and status, and that is just a fact. Otherwise people who worked two jobs or crazy hours would be among the wealthiest. That is just not the case. WHO you know or are makes all the difference.

  24. A Person Called Mathertron

    Also, crass ^_^ big A, little a is an anthem of my time

  25. A Person Called Mathertron

    Lots of interesting points, also ugliest person I've ever crushed on. those eyes!

    'scuse me, back to the point...I think the film raised many valid, pertinent points framed with a decent historical and social context and succintly narrated without too much subjective bias and a mildly dissafected but ultimately compassionate tone....

    I enjoyed it.

    1. Dean Edgington

      I enjoyed it too, I watch all 3 back-to-back. Btw, I think your summary is spot on.

  26. Aldo Solari

    "Ideas of equality" WERE NOT nurtured in the USA. Credits where credits are due. THANK YOU.

    1. wald0

      When the U.S. was established in 1776 it was the only society built from scratch on the principle of a meritocracy. This movement started in France and spread through out Europe. But, America was where it was realized for the first time. No, this did not mean that everyone was treated as equals. But it did mean you could not ascend to political power simply by inheriting the correct last name. America was also a republic, which meant it recognized certain god given rights for those peoples that fell outside of the prevailing prejudices of the time. Now this may seem horrible to us, that the rights of blacks, Native Americans, women, etc. were not recognized but, it was still a vast improvement over the monarchy were every one that was not of noble blood had no rights at all. At one time America was a shining light for this world, even though it always had its own demons to hide- just like every other country in existence I might add. This is why people literally risked life and limb to get to this country in times past. No other country on the face of this earth can say it had that many people that desperate to come live there.

      I am not proud of what the U.S. has become. We have become so consumed with remaining a world power that we have compromised the core of what we stood for, our means have destroyed the end they were supposed to protect. There is no sense of civil responsibility here any longer, only a sense of entitlement. But, I am proud if what we used stand for, even if we never quite lived up to it ourselves.

    2. Eniki520

      meritocracy for white men is not true meritocracy. the founding fathers were all wealthy white land owning men(nobles) who ran the government. the found fathers were not average people they were the elite. and most of them got their money from the work their slaves did not their own hard work. George Washington was one of the richest men in the country. yeah it sounds nice and makes us feel good as american to say that but in reality who you are(what class your born into) and know is more important then how hard you work. The slaves worked harder then anyone and they weren't even counted as full men.

    3. avd420

      I didn't realize George Washington represented all white men. I can relate to the slave comment though,considering my ancestors were scottish and scots were once slaves in America and for centuries in England. Although my slavery isn't as important as your slavery I guess.

  27. PavolvsBitch

    The answer is simple: Money, is an illusion and illusions cannot fulfill anything other than a belief, never to be realised in actuality.

    1. wald0

      True, but being poor more often than not brings you misery. Money may not buy happiness but being able to pay the bills and survive is a need that must be met before other more fulfilling things can take place. Whether we like it or not we live in a world that denies us even the most basic of needs if we can not pay for them. A person that is worried about what they will eat or where they will sleep cares nothing for poetry or music. In order for a human being to reach thier full potential they must be able to at least earn enough to meet thier basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, etc. and they must feel they will be able to maintain these needs for the foreseeable future.

    2. Christina

      Maslow's Hierarchy! Meet the biological needs, the first step in the pyramid, before you can reach the last step of self-actualization... You said it right...

    3. Tipsy

      This is true, but it can't be extrapolated in the other direction. Psychologically, we reach a threshold of how much money actually makes us happy. Once we have security for ourselves(for food, shelter, transportation, and a bit in savings), the rest means almost nothing.

    4. nick-16

      but how high is that threshold? would it ever REALLY be enough? once you reach the next goal, you are satisfied, but, naturally, it doesn't last all that long before you find yourself wanting more. as you reach a higher 'social' status,your you find yourself comparing your immaterial assets, property, and life, to those of the new higher 'equal'

    5. avd420

      I thought the doc had little do to with money and more to do with material wealth.

  28. wald0

    I don't think Alain de Botton presumes to "teach the Masses" anything. He does usually have very practicle and well thought out opinions on philosophy and modern issues but, he is far from being presumptious. On the contrary, he seems a very approachable chap, someone I would like to share a pint with. It is very unusual to find someone as well versed in philosophy and as well edeucated as Alain that is also humble and ordinary enough to see as a friend.

    One of his heros of philosophy, a french philosopher named Michel De Montaigne, was also very approachable and humble. He often remarked how even the finest of ladies, the richest of gentlemen, the most priviledged nobility sometimes farted, picked thier nose, or worse. He dedicated his writings to the fact that the common servants of his manor were just as happy, if not more so, than the most wealthy and priviledged he had ever met. He also wrote about the difference of intelligence and wisdom, and how having one does not neccesarily mean you will possess the other.

    I enjoyed this documentary, as well I have all of Alain's work so far. Alain offers a very refreshing insight into how the western model of the capitalist society produces so much worry, violence, disappointment, etc. He also touches on how this society has changed christianity drastically from the European model, and how that is now feeding back into the loop to create even further reaching more distinct changes in the way we think. Facinating, truly facinating!!

  29. oklima

    I like Alain de Botton's documentaries

  30. 0zyxcba1

    "Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. It's cheaper."
    ~ Quentin Crisp

  31. Matt Kukowski

    Thank you. Teach these masses that worry too much about what other people think about you that they are acting like High School CHILDREN. Remember when you felt like everyone was looking at your zits? Or your hair? Look back and think how silly all that was.

    Well, little has changed with age. Unless you look for love and respect in yourself, others will not give it to you. But, I think you need to respect everyone. Problem is... the world has gone MAD. So, I personally am very guarded and I protect my family.

    Tee other day I got a bill saying I owed $700 for a bill I had no idea of. I looked up the company on the letter and found it was 100% fraudulent.

    Now, this has become standard case in the world. You have to have respect, but not gullible or too open to other people. It is a fine balance.

    Unforgivably they do not teach this in school, your church or from your parents. I teach my daughter to love herself first, and love others from there. If she can not respect herself first, how can others feel they should respect her?

    We need more docs like this. We all talk about science, economics, scandals, politics and everything else but completely leave our our Humanity.

    Also, respect Nature.

    1. Unknown

      could not agree MORE! ^__^

  32. Tyler Stanley

    Really had me thinking.

    Thanks for the upload.

  33. Mihai Chiriac

    very good doc

  34. Eniki520

    in modern America who you know is more important then how hard you work.

    1. 0zyxcba1

      @ Stephen Molinares

      That was true in modern ancient Egypt, too!

    2. Eniki520

      That's probably true for all cultures whose survival doesnt depend on the work.

  35. phillip wong

    This guy is a f***ing idiot. This guy is rich because of family. He does 't need to work at all. Now, he is tell what the rest of non rich people what to think? What the hell.

    1. alans

      Regardless whether you are rich or poor, you are bound to biology and human nature, but philosophy can help you deal with that or at least be aware of it.

    2. wald0

      Yeah, how dare he try and help you be happier!! Come on man, knock the chip off your shoulder and listen, you might learn something. Alain doesn't claim to have the answers, he simply refers you to other philosophers that have something to say about the subject at hand. He is very good at referring you to practical advice one can use in the everyday world to help us see things differently. After all, perception is what creates reality and our perceived reality is what creates our mood, and your mood seems it could use some improving. Good luck with that.