Analysis Of Alain De Boordon's 'Equality Expectation And Envy'

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The Neverending Desire for More
Alain de Botton argues in his article, “Equality Expectation and Envy,” that as Western society has had increasing success, a sense of failure and disappointment with oneself has emerged. In his analysis, he states that people must stop comparing themselves to one another; instead, they should focus on curbing their own desires and being satisfied with all of the material advancements that can be enjoyed in today’s world. Botton overall discusses how Western civilizations’ increase in success and egalitarian beliefs, rather than historic religious class separations, has led to an overall rise in status anxiety; furthermore, he examines how fear of deprivation can be caused by comparison within one’s reference
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According to Botton, in ancient europe, “slaves and… the working class… were considered… perfectly fitted to a life of servitude” (28). Everyone in this time saw the slaves as perfectly deserving of their life of labor and toils. Even the slaves themselves believed that the inequality was okay, or at least was unchangeable, and they, “fell prey to a religion that taught them to accept unequal treatment as part of a natural, unchangeable order” (Botton 28). There was no question of moving up the social ladder as people believed that God had directly given them their place in society. In the middle seventeenth century, however, beliefs shifted away from this religious class system and towards egalitarianism, or the belief that the individual had natural rights that couldn’t be overruled. People began to see themselves as deserving of a better life (Botton 31). Botton asserts that this led to status anxiety because even the poor felt that they could accomplish great things, and they were severely disappointed if their expectations of life were not met. The people believed that they were all equal; therefore, they should all have equal rights and success-- an impossibly high …show more content…
Western writers have shifted to works intended to inspire, but the “self-made heroes” and stories of someone achieving everything they ever wanted very quickly by wielding their “inner power” have actually had the adverse effect (Botton 38). Literature can widen the reference group of an individual. People can relate to the main character, in the way of coming from humble beginnings, and feel envious whenever the character has sudden success and they do not. More recent mass media, such as the radio, cinema, and television, has further influenced status anxiety through advertisements and stories of higher status people (Botton 41). People can now have an even wider reference group because they can hear of or watch other people’s successful lives. They can covet and envy objects they never would have known existed before through the media’s

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