We should be more honest about the role that status-seeking plays in debates
"We are bullshit. You are bullshit. I am bullshit. We're nothing."
My least surprising opinion is that, of course, I loved Succession1.
I don’t say this lightly, but I think it might be the greatest television show of all time2.
What I love about the show is that it doesn’t need to use many of the hackiest tropes in TV to tell the story. There are no flashbacks. There are no dream sequences. And the show only seldom uses cliff-hangers.
Instead, the viewer is drawn in by the exploration of an aspect of human nature that is rarely talked about in explicit terms: Our desire not for money or material goods, but for status.
The Roy family we see on screen are rich beyond what any of us mere mortals can possibly imagine. And it is no real spoiler to say that by the end of the show, though some characters ‘win’ and others ‘lose’, everyone remains fabulously wealthy. Because money doesn’t matter. What they’re fighting over is their relative position in the world, and the status and respect that position will earn them.
And what I find strange is that though everyone watching knows how important this fight for status is to the characters on the show, I think that very broadly speaking, we are much less comfortable talking in explicit terms about our desire for status and the impact that status competition has on human behaviour – and ourselves.
Oh god, am I trying to sound clever? This can only end badly. So please subscribe to get more regular, significantly less pretentious, blazing hot politics, policy and nerd-stuff takes direct to your inbox. Increase my own relative status by smashing this subscribe button. Plus you’ll get to see a case study I’d only ever dare use behind the safety of a paywall.
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