Causes: Dependence (Notes from Status Anxiety)

Notes from Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety (2004). This is the sixth post on this topic; the first is here.


Status, historically, was tied to what one was at birth, not what one achieved in one’s lifetime. [Can you imagine that this is a new concept? It seems so wholly part of what one seems to know.]  Modern societies try to reverse this, to make rank dependent only on achievement — usually, financial achievement.

The most evident trait of the struggle to achieve status now is uncertainty.

de Button lists five unpredictable elements:

(1) talent – it could desert us or we could find we never really had it

(2) luck – no longer as acceptable to point to as a factor, no moody gods to blame these days. The world is “enamored of rational control.”

(3) dependence on an employer (q.v., Machiavelli, Guicciardini, La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyère, et al.)

(4) dependence on an employer’s profitability

(5) dependence on the global economy

Workers’ status is never guaranteed, is always dependent on their own performance and on factors that are outside of their control.


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