In the comments to this terrific post Noah Millman writes, “I will say, though, that conflating status with comfort or pleasure is a mistake. Lots of people will readily forego pleasure and comfort almost entirely in the struggle for status. They aren’t equivalent goods.”
This is an important point, and it’s worth noticing that “status” itself is highly circumstantial. In his great talk on “The Inner Ring,” C. S. Lewis writes,
People who believe themselves to be free, and indeed are free, from snobbery, and who read satires on snobbery with tranquil superiority, may be devoured by the desire [for the Inner Ring] in another form. It may be the very intensity of their desire to enter some quite different Ring which renders them immune from all the allurements of high life. An invitation from a duchess would be very cold comfort to a man smarting under the sense of exclusion from some artistic or communistic côterie. Poor man — it is not large, lighted rooms, or champagne, or even scandals about peers and Cabinet Ministers that he wants: it is the sacred little attic or studio, the heads bent together, the fog of tobacco smoke, and the delicious knowledge that we — we four or five all huddled beside this stove — are the people who know.
There is a certain desire to belong — to belong to something from which others are excluded — that takes an almost infinite variety of forms and in any of them can be tyrannically powerful over us. This is not really relevant to Noah’s post as such, but it’s just worth noting that are a shocking number of benefits, real or apparent, for which “people will readily forego pleasure and comfort.”