Innovation and the Multitude

In my introduction, I declared that I would be attempting to define ‘innovation.’ This is one such time.

My dissertation is complex. It is theory heavy, and as soon as I start to describe it, 3 out of 5 people begin to lose consciousness. Instead of risking your current state of awake-ness, I’ll save you by telling you that my dissertation concerns itself with time – specifically the ways in which our American-dominated-yet-globalized world values the way we spend, talk and think about our time. The part I’m concerning myself with for this particular post is the “American-dominated-yet-globalized world values” part of that sentence.

Over the weekend, I dove head-first into Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, followed by an equally head-first dive into Multitude, by the same authors, 5 years later, and it’s also the ‘sequel’ to Empire. Hardt and Negri first distinguish ‘Empire’ from ‘Imperialism’ defining ‘Empire’ this way: “The concept of Empire is characterized fundamentally by a lack of boundaries: Empire’s rule has no limits… as a regime with no temporal boundaries and in this sense outside of history or at the end of history…. Empire not only manages a territory and a population but also creates the very world it inhabits” (Empire xv). In short, we currently live in an Empire – one that is very different than the sort we learned about in history class.

The next important thing to define is ‘multitude.’ I’ll do it quickly this way:

The people = 1 homogeneous entity
The multitude = the many, the diverse, including social stratification
The masses = the indifferent, lacking in social stratification, the passive (Multitude, xiv)

Within the multitude are knowledge workers – people like me, and Hardt and Negri who make knowledge like what you’re reading here. Now here’s the big finish:

At the end of the preface, Hardt and Negri explain that “The multitude is working through Empire to create an alternative global society… the postmodern revolution of the multitude looks forward, beyond imperial sovereignty” (xvii).

In being student innovators, I like to think that we are, in fact, looking beyond any upper-class sanctioned sovereignty – those that rule the masses – and creating our own globalized world – a world, with enough work – that will look very different from the world we know today.


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