Oh dear, oh dear. A huge disappointment. Sorry, Alain de Botton – I know I really enjoyed your The Consolations Of Philosophy back before I even began my degree, but this didn’t even come close. Rather than “the story of our quest for love from the world”, Status Anxiety is like a cross between a lame self-help book and a brief history of civilisations. As I pointed out to Ben this morning, I enjoyed the pictures more than the text: this says an awful lot.
de Botton’s book is not completely without merit, however: like a good philosopher should, he does reflect on what drives us as human beings. Some of it will hopefully make you reflect as well. He looks at why and under what conditions we suddenly feel the compulsion to display status, but balances this with a look at those walks of life that chose to discard the need for material wealth (oh look: it’s the Greek philosophers). But it does take a long time for these highlights to get going, and they are brief. The majority of the book dwells in dry language and only mildly interesting historical topics.
That said, the included illustrations are lovely – they do bring the text to life. Unfortunately, I feel that the text is held up rather than complimented by its illustrations: a set up which is a bit desperate. But I was able to take away some philosophical musings: if you’ve got the patience, maybe you can extract something from this book as well. Otherwise, try The Consolations Of Philosophy instead: it’s much better.