In Status Anxiety, Alain De Botton discusses the desire of people in many modern societies to “climb the social ladder” and the anxieties that result from a focus on how one is perceived by others. De Botton claims that chronic anxiety about status is an inevitable side effect of any democratic, ostensibly egalitarian society.
What I find interesting is that in our modern western democracies – where the popular idea is that we’re all equal – a lot of people are striving to be more than equal. They don’t want to be average or ordinary and they want the material possessions they think people who are higher up the status ladder should own. This can lead people to take on ever greater levels of debt to fund their lifestyles – to create a facade of success and to help elevate themselves up the social ladder. I do know people who live in big houses and drive flash cars, but barely have two pennies to rub together – they’re up to their eyeballs in debt.
Now that credit is not as easily available and with the effects of peak oil coming down the pike, do you think the desire to climb the social ladder will go away, or will people discover as simpler way to live that doesn’t revolve around keeping up with the Jones’?