Thinking about status

This is a provocatively good article on ‘status’ on the Unherd website:

Status is extremely important to wellbeing, so much so that it can have a profound effect on our health. People more successful in their careers tend to live longer, even taking into account confounders like smoking. The demoralising feeling of lower social status can send our bodies into a sort of crisis mode which in the long term puts us at higher risk of neurodegenerative disease, heart disease and cancer.

This set me thinking about the current government, who obviously think they have high status, and objectively they do – but do they also not feel that their status is threatened? They certainly act as if they do. The withdrawal – just because they can – of the £20 a week Universal Credit payment is surely a glaring example.

Demonstrably it does no good for the former recipients, demonstrably too it does no good for society as a whole or even its economic system. Indeed it is likely to promote illness and despair with some resultant family breakdown. If there are children involved then it will damage their prospects and enhance the vulnerabilities of a future generation. It thus creates problems which are also self perpetuating…

But, for the moment, at great societal cost, it does preserve status.

The article goes on to suggest:

Modern-day identity politics is dangerous because it unleashes a competition for status that can never really end. Many idealists hope to make the world fairer by raising the status of one group….. Yet status is a zero-sum game, and unlike wealth the pie cannot be expanded: if your group rises in status, others must fall, and the psychological and even physical effects of losing status are real.

Identity politics is a favourite of our current government and its operation suggests that they want to ‘cancel’, as the current jargon has it, ideas – they don’t like others thinking because they fear that they cannot compete – and that they will thus lose status.

Most of humanity’s problems have to some extent been solved or alleviated by technology and progress; we have never been richer, healthier or more at peace. But desire for status is the one thing that can never be overcome, because it is not enough that I succeed — others must fail.

In that case it does suggest considerable insecurity among government members – in spite of their numerous silver spoons and expensive education, they really have an unhealthy need for the rest of us to be kept in check.

Although well-educated, none of the government is actually very good at their job (with the possible exception of Gove) and there is a woeful paucity of ideas – are they, perhaps simply frightened that they will be found out? (Without realising that in large part they have of course, yet our rickety constitution, and disastrously propagandist media contrives to keep them in power – for the moment, at least).

Hence there is unparalleled government fear about universities – full of dangerous academics – some of whom are actually thinking, and also their fear of the left, which by definition thinks about ideas for change.

In fact the government scheme for status is – surprise – the status quo.

No thinking required – just identity games in order to keep us ‘down’.

Progressives really must home in on improving the ‘status’ of the discussion and ways of implementing ideas – particularly when we know that they can, by definition, be ‘afforded’

The difficulty of this must not be underestimated because that recognition would additionally comprise a complete loss of status for Conservatives and their ‘beliefs’….


  1. Bill Hughes -

    Interesting points here regarding the importance of status and a persons feeling of self-worth and confidence. Clearly, the Conservatives feel they have this and that others should only work hard and follow the rules and they will be successful too.
    However, any hope of this meritocratic thinking or propaganda being a realistic motivation for young people is completely false as any form of social mobility now is almost nil. The dream that each generation will become better off than the previous one ended with the end of the post-war social democratic period that ended with the triumph of neoliberal economics from the 10980s. The rise in tuition fees and rents and the impossibility of most young people to get on the “housing ladder” has put paid to aspirational hopes..

    1. Peter May -

      Much agree.
      What a way to run the country for future generations…

    2. Peter May -

      I much agree in every respect – particularly re ‘social mobility’.

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