Philosopher and author Alain de Botton believes there's something the vast majority of people desire even more than money. Whatever their background or social class, whatever their age or country of origin, what they desperately crave is status.
In this two-and-a-half-hour programme, as well as testing his theory in Britain, De Botton travels to the United States to investigate status anxiety, asking why people are unable to curtail their painful aspirations and whether those at the bottom of society merit their position there as much as those at the top do theirs. As well as examining the work of classical philosophers, de Botton develops his theory with the help of a Washington DC restaurant manager who considers himself destined to become a chat show host; motivational speaker Les Brown; homeless lady Jenny Lamont; and members of the Native American population.
De Botton's search for possible cures to status anxiety takes him to churches on both sides of the Atlantic; the bohemian world of punks, nudists and hippies who live by their own rules; and both ancient and modern philosophers.