enjoying it

An extract from Alfie Bown’s new book, Enjoying It

book cover

Alfie Bown, Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism (Zero Books 2015), 96pp.

‘God demands a constant state of enjoyment, such as would be in keeping with the Order of Things.’
Judge Schreber

I am really enjoying this: the process of writing a short book on enjoyment. I’m also looking forward to finishing the book, so that I can return to an on-going game of Football Manager that I am deeply invested in on my new smartphone, which I am also definitely going to enjoy. In the back of my mind is the possibility of having sex with my wife later, which is a pastime I can realistically hope to derive intense enjoyment from. Leaving behind any further over-sharing of the biographical details of the author, which have been enjoyable to share with the imaginary reader, this short book asks what, if anything, connects these forms of enjoyment? How can we discuss enjoyment and the differences between moments of enjoyment? What would be the politics of doing so? And why is this something we should do, or might enjoy doing?

Some enjoyment is illegal. None of these enjoyments are the focus of this book, and it would take quite a different book to discuss them. Yet, as a final suggestion, perhaps we might even say […] that the enjoyment and happiness of society has been cut and marginalized in favor of the enjoyment of the individual. The fact that we place so much trustin our own individual enjoyment, seeing it as something positive and good, and something that is a ‘gift of nature,’ that is a reflection of ‘who we are,’ and that we can do nothing about, is very dangerous. This ideology of seeing enjoyment as a symptom of our ‘nature’ could lead to the following of passions found ‘enjoyable’ that are not only illegal but disastrous and damaging (it is probably best to avoid even giving an example here). A brilliant Louis Theroux documentary from 2007, Behind Bars, showed just how many inmates saw their ‘natural enjoyment’ of illegal things as the reason for their crimes. It is because we see enjoyment as ‘natural,’ and something we cannot help, that we follow its impulses, even when we should not.

I have suggested that the existing discourses surrounding enjoyment may be politically dangerous in the sense that they help order and entrench a problematic class system, dividing us by what we enjoy. It may also be that our discourses of enjoyment are actually dangerous too (as well as being ideologically dangerous), promoting a feeling that desires should be followed and that enjoyment operates as its own justification for action because what we enjoy reflects who we naturally are. Instead I have tried to show here that enjoyment, and our attitudes towards it, creates who we are rather than reflecting our natural tendencies. In other words, I hope to have shown that a culture that tells us that our enjoyment is ‘natural’ can’t very well complain when criminals turn up at the scene. Instead, if we come to see that our enjoyment is not ‘what comes natural,’ but something having an effect on us, constructing us as subjects, then we will not feel so obliged to follow what we enjoy and there will be no excuse for acting on forms of enjoyment that destroy the enjoyment and indeed safety of other people. I hope that my argument, albeit about Candy Crush and Football Manager, has this ethical dimension. 

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