Essay: Hard Times for the Status-Minded

He may never have been a Galileo of the social firmament, but as a journalist Vance Packard is clear-eyed enough to have seen, before anybody else, that the post-World War II U.S. had got caught up in a compulsive competition for status. The proof came in The Status Seekers (1959), a dissection of those Americans who, as the author put it, were "continually straining to surround themselves with visible evidence of the superior rank they are claiming." Since that happened to include just about the entire U.S. population, the great status game, once...

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