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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Adspeak: Stella Artois 4%

Here’s another socially aspirational advert for an alcoholic drink. This time it’s Stella Artois 4%. At the train station, a young worker sees a fashionable bourgeois girl get onto a train. She makes eye contact – but what can a rough young worker hope from such a social mismatch. Yet our worker gives chase, and gets on the train – in third class, of course, among the pigs and peasants. He bravely presses on to second class, only to meet the class barrier of the ticket inspector. And yet, somehow, as he goes past the ticket inspector, he magically assumes his clothes and social position. Then, as he enters the exalted realm of the first class train buffet, another magic switch-around transforms him into the waiter. Finally, the last magic switch-around transforms him into an affluent businessman, just in time to smile at the posh young girl – finally as a social equal, worthy of her attention. It is like Great Expectations in 60 seconds – our hero goes from peasant to playboy in under a minute, all thanks to the socially transforming fairy-dust of Stella.

The advert is for Stella Artois 4% – triple filtre. The implication is that, just as the beer has been triple filtered to remove all impurities, so, if you drink it, it will filter you of all your class and social impurities, and magically aid your ascent up the social ladder. Cheers!

The rise of Aristotle

For me, one of the biggest ‘big ideas’ of our time is the return of Aristotle, and the concomitant move beyond liberalism (what David Goodhart calls ‘post-liberalism’) and towards a more Aristotelian conception of the good life and the good society. I’ve argued that this ‘rise of neo-Aristotelianism‘ began in the 1980s with Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, and gathered pace over the next two decades with the works of Martha Nussbaum, Charles Taylor, Michael Sandel and Amartya Sen, and the trickle-down of this revival of virtue ethics into modern policy thinking, via the likes of Richard Reeves, Geoff Mulgan, Jon Cruddas, Philip Blond and the New Economics Foundation.

For a visual image of this process at work, look at this Google ngram graph, showing the rise in the use of the word ‘Aristotle’ in Google’s database of books since the 1960s. The precipitous rise begins in the late 1980s – as a backlash against neo-liberalism begins and writers start to look for older ideas of personal and civic virtue and well-being. At least…I think that’s what’s happening.