What Is The ‘Status Quo’?

Stick to the status quo, or just learn about it.

Status quo is a phrase we throw around a lot in daily life, but what does it really mean? Simply put it’s the current situation or the way things are right now. Officially, it’s “The existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues.” Over time, however, the phrase has gained new meanings both socially and politically. Don’t worry, it’s not as complex as it sounds, especially because it can be used both negatively and positively.


If you speak any Latin, then the following may come as no surprise to you. In Ancient Latin, status quo literally translates to “the state in which.” It was used for a multitude of circumstances in conversation back in Latin’s heyday. It later transitioned to being used in more scholarly contexts and made its way to British courts during the 14th to the 18th centuries. This led to its evolution into a multiple-meaning phrase, both socially and politically. Nowadays, as with many Latin phrases, it has been incorporated into day-to-day language and thus has shifted to being versatile in a larger number of situations. 

Social Interpretation

Sociologically, “status quo” refers to current social structures or a set of societal values. While social structures and values are both intangible, there’s no denying that they have a large influence on our daily life and the decisions we make. This influence is also known as the status quo bias which is the human tendency to keep things the same to avoid risky outcomes. Let’s look at an example: say you go to a sandwich shop, chances are you’re going to order the sandwich you’ve already tried before. Or say you’re choosing between a name brand soda and a lesser known soda. You’re probably going to reach for the name brand even if the flavor of the other one might be more appealing.

Social values have ingrained our brain to desire stability, which keeps us from judging different options fairly. While there’s definitely some logic to gravitating towards the things you know, there’s a power larger than your personal decisions that is swaying you and it’s the status quo

Here are some more social examples:

  • “The media plays a significant role in shaping the social status quo by influencing public opinion and reinforcing certain beliefs.”
  • “The team’s performance has plateaued due to their reluctance to challenge the status quo and try new strategies.”
  • “The artist challenged the status quo with their thought-provoking and unconventional artwork.”

Political Interpretation

In regards to politics, “status quo” takes on a slightly different meaning. In disputes of policy, it’s the standard that is met with when discussing changes. It’s important to note that this standard is something that’s actively being debated in today’s political climate, however. What’s being questioned is whether or not the current political status quo is a fair principle to use across all situations. 

Here are some more political examples:

  • “The political candidate promises to shake up the status quo and bring about much-needed reforms.”
  • “The government aims to preserve the status quo by implementing policies that maintain the current social order.”
  • “Voters are divided between those who seek to uphold the status quo and those who desire a more progressive approach to governance.”

Well, now that you’re all filled in on status quo’s variety of usages, it’s your choice whether you want to mess with the flow, oh nooo. Okay, no more High School Musical quotes. 


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