By Marquis Bey
Having been tasked with meditating on critique and praxis via the generative call of Bernard Harcourt but also, more fundamentally, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, I’ve come to a reticent conclusion that there may be no “end.” Indeed, accosted by right-wing populism, virulent white supremacy, transantagonism, heternormative patriarchy, and the litany of other violent regimes in our midst we so earnestly yearn for their cessation. We demand that it all end, now, and for justifiable reasons. I, though, in being animated by a critical praxis, do not place my crosshairs on a moment beyond now in which things come to a close. To be sure, this is not motivated by a nihilistic pessimism about the fate of the current political moment, where I cannot fathom cessation or even mitigation of various violences; this is not motivated by a perverse infatuation with the bounding persistence of hegemonic terrors. It is motivated by a kind of zeal, in fact, one where refusing an end allows for a perpetual openness that enables, always, the possibility of another beginning.
Fundamental here is both the critical and the praxis. If critical, which is to say an adjectival critique, is a ruthless interrogation of the established and institutionalized—and this, of course, is in the vein of Marx’s 1843 letter to Arnold Ruge, in which he urges the undertaking of “die rücksichtlose Kritik alles Bestehenden”—an interrogation of that which settles into a normative hold circumscribing salvific excesses; and if praxis is a doing, an agential enactment that bears on sociality, then a critical praxis marks an interrogative social enactment. What kind of politics might this lead to? What kind of sociality might this engender, and who might show up to this coalitional gathering?
Those maroons, subversive intellectuals, fugitives, queers, black feminists, and rebellious workers meet to conspire together in the undercommons: a non-place where everyone is black, queer, insurgent, because one is changed by entrance into the undercommons inasmuch as the undercommons is not a place you enter but a groove that enters you. Critical praxis becomes a radical invitation to not only do but to be done by the undercommon insurgency that places a demand. And such an interrogation must suspend the presumption of the end goal. We know from Moten and Harney, and Jack Halberstam, that what we think we want before the crucial point of crisis that precipitates our insurgency will necessarily shift after we’ve attained the limits of what our coalitional knowledge could compile. It is not because we are insufficient, as if insufficiency is a deficiency rather than a willingness to risk getting at the outer limits of where we dared to think; it is because we cannot, and must not, assume that the logics and rubrics—radically altered as they may be—we have when moving within the maelstrom of the hegemonic in order to exceed that maelstrom can operate to our benefit when we’ve breached the hegemon. We will need new rubrics and metrics, unrubrics and unmetrics, because a radically other-world requires radically other means to love it, to caress it, to be all the way in it.
So why is there no “end”? To assert this might seem to sidestep what Foucault claims in the Preface of Anti-Oedipus: to be “less concerned with why this or that than with how to proceed.” Refusing to bank on the “end” is, at least in part, how to proceed. “An abdication of political responsibility?” Moten and Harney write, anticipating the accusation. “OK. Whatever. We’re just anti-politically romantic about actually existing social life.” One’s concern must be an ethical one that, I want to submit, perhaps in supplementation to an oversight in Moten and Harney, not only sets its sights on social life that “actually” (I shiver at the implicit hubris of this word, its presumptive facticity) exists but, more substantively, fertilizes the conditions of possibility for otherwise and unsung and unknown emergence. There is no “end” because to know the end is to think one knows the totality of the landscape, a line of thinking that in fact cannot account for that which falls outside of the dictates of existential and ontological legibility. There might always be something else just outside, and we cannot foreclose the discussion when we think it is over. Fugitive planning plans for what it cannot plan for by refusing to plan for it. So there is no end in sight because sight is not the only sense available to us. (But there is also no end in touch, smell, feel, or taste—or any other proprioceptive sensibilities.) There is no end in sight because our end may only be someone else’s beginning, another’s middle. Thus, our critical praxis, our interrogative social enactment, does something precisely when it commits to a political endeavor that is not in its own interest or the interest of the purportedly most marginalized; it is doing something when it commits to proliferating life where no life is said to be found.