From Irvin J. Hunt, "Planned Failure: George Schuyler, Ella Baker, and the Young Negroes’ Cooperative League", American Quarterly Volume 72, Number 4 (December 2020)
"As an echolalia of subtleties, planned failure is too gestural to be regarded as open dialogue, organized chaos, or a commitment to contingent action, the last still comprising the veritable lodestar of democratic politics and radical socialist strategy. Nor should it be conflated with the capitalist imperative of planned obsolescence and reinvention. Its plunge into the present not only rebuffs the “re” in the idea of reinvention. It rebuffs invention. If anything, its aim is to hear out and sound out the very mother of invention: necessity. Consider it the necessity of countering an always exclusive progressive line of history. Consider it the wild undercurrent of what Baker called “‘group-centered leadership,’” a horizontality of social arrangements that would be practiced by a long series of insurgencies.
Planned failure inverts the perspective of policymakers. Policymakers are fixed on being fixed, yet always in need of hope, capital’s cynosure. These policycrats keep making plans and plans fail as a matter of policy. Plans must fail because planners must fail. Those who devise the failure of their own plans inhabit that failure. Sure, this desire for institutional collapse, for a serial construction and deconstruction, for splintered and rhizomic forms of power over constituted and centralized ones, for the always-irregular, makes for a counterintuitive activism, but its affects are ecstasies.
Planned failure is an ecstatic makeup (and breakup), a mode of being out of body while never more in it. If ecstatic means to literally be outside oneself, beside oneself, by way of some passionate feeling, then, it can also mean a people living utterly beside themselves with rage, grief, and let us add, glee. To be beside oneself renders planned failure too counterintuitive for the recent reappraisals of social movement failure foe example. Deeper than a readiness to alter one’s plans according to an evolving historical landscape, planned failure is a frenzy, being out of one’s wits with fear and delight. It lacks the rationality that undergirds what, for instance, Vaughn Raspberry has called “the right to fail,” the right “to preserve the experimental spirit and the assumption of failure as a precondition of new knowledge.” Planned failure is preset self-negation, an ungovernable generativity encoded in and against the initial form. On its deepest level, planned failure names the synchronized operation, the co-operation, of two affective drives: a love for the world thus a desire for its preservation, and the sense that the world must come to end for the world to have a chance, for property to be dismantled and for shared freedom to be born."