I am still confused by the book “Status Anxiety” by Alain de Botton. Either it is just a stupid banality stating the obvious, or Douglas Adams is right and “It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious.” The book describes how the modern rejection of the class-based stratification of society, which seemed like a so good idea at the time, lead to meritocracy and status anxiety. In the society based on the tradition and class-based status, people on the bottom did not have to feel dishonored about their lot in the life, because it was just something given to them by God, destiny, etc. In the modernist society where the stratification is seemingly based only on the merit, and success (mostly measured by the personal income), suddenly people in the bottom are pressed to feel that it is just their fault, thus the anxiety.
There were times in the history of humankind when the idea of class, status, and honor was complete foundation of all thinking. Dan Carlin in “Death Throes of the Republic” for example claims that the concern for personal status was something which lead to the fall of the Roman Republic (to some extent at least). Suddenly we don’t talk about these things at all, and the only measure of personal status is the current income. I don’t think however that not-talking about status makes the anxiety go away.
(posted also on my blog)