Monday, August 16, 2010

"Status Anxiety" by Alain de Botton

To watch the complete documentary please visit the youtube link.

Status anxiety is a documentary based on a book written by Alain de Botton. In this book, de Botton explores the complex relationship between the capitalistic system and happiness. He builds on the work of Alexis de Tocqueville. Alexis de Tocqueville's famous exposition "Democracy in America" compared the American way of life with the french aristocratic system. Although he does acknowledge that a democratic system leads to more economic opportunities for the individual but he was deeply bothered by the malaise of anxiety bothering the Americans. It seemed to him that progress and economic development had taken such a strong hold on the American mindset that individuals were increasingly anxious about their status. Compared to french aristocracy, peasants were happy being peasants, never for once bothered about progress. The peasants in France never had the opportunity to change their status and this resulted in a profound contentment and resignation with the fact that they were peasants. In America, this was totally different, anyone who wasn't making progress was sliding backwards.

Here's a description of the American way of life by Tocqueville:

"Born often under another sky, placed in the middle of an always moving scene, himself driven by the irresistible torrent which draws all about him, the American has no time to tie himself to anything, he grows accustomed only to change, and ends by regarding it as the natural state of man. He feels the need of it, more he loves it; for the instability; instead of meaning disaster to him, seems to give birth only to miracles all about him."

"As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?"

Here he describes the nature of individuals living in aristocratic societies, deprived of all material comforts.

"The Indian knew how to live without wants, to suffer without complaint, and to die singing."

He also presents a cure for the problems of democracy:

"If a [democratic] society displays less brilliance than an aristocracy, there will also be less wretchedness; pleasures will be less outrageous and well being will be shared by all; the sciences will be on a smaller scale but ignorance will be less common; opinions will be less vigorous and habits gentler; you will notice more vices and fewer crimes."

No comments:

Post a Comment