By Mike Carlton; Richard Walker; Mark Hamlyn; Gail Jarvis; Jacomiene Betlem; All authors
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This means that early capitalism—the incipience of modernity—thwarted enjoyment to the same extent that traditional societies did. Hence, in one sense, the break that Marxism celebrates between traditional societies and capitalist society was not initially all that radical. Though capitalist society unleashed the productive forces of society in a hitherto unimagined way, it nonetheless continued an explicit prohibition on enjoyment in order to maximize productivity. Around 1900, however, the structure of capitalism underwent a profound change, as has been chronicled by Marxists from Lenin and Bukharin to Ernest Mandel and Fredric Jameson.
55 We are not witnessing an explosion of unrestrained enjoyment today, but its opposite. Hence, though I often employ the term “society of enjoyment” to indicate the society structured around the superegoic imperative to enjoy, this shorthand should in no way be taken to suggest that this is a society where subjects are actually enjoying themselves. There is, instead, an absence of enjoyment today. We see this absence of enjoyment in the widespread apathy of contemporary subjects, their aggressiveness, their cynicism, and in the other symptoms of the society of enjoyment that the following chapters will discuss.
Though we tend to think that we need intimacy or proximity for harmonious intersubjective relations, proximity actually represents a barrier to such relations. This is why, in conversations, we take pains to avoid invading the “personal space” of our interlocutors. We feel uncomfortable, unable to speak, with someone in close proximity directly in front of us. When we are too close, confronted directly with the presence of an other in her/his enjoyment, the enjoyment is suffocating. The symbolic order and the prohibition that constitutes it provide distance from enjoyment, a distance in which it is possible to relate to the other.