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Generation 11 Taking the Millennialist Pulse of Empire’s Multitude: A Genealogical Feminist Diagnosis
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From time to time, claims are made that we are living through a change so momentous that the world and human nature are never to be the same. Michael Hardt’s and Antonio Negri’s Empire is one such instance.1 Hardt and Negri are hardly alone in the feeling that irrevocable forces of change are upon us. The year 2000 publication date of Empire coincided with what was commonly called “Millennium Madness” in the popular press. In the buildup to the year 2000, many people around the world and certainly throughout the United States reported great trepidation that the turn of the calendar would bring, if not the literal end of the world, at least the end of the world as we know it. For Christian fundamentalists, this fear was accompanied by an equally great hope that the end would be the result of divine power and would inaugurate the beginning of a new era, a millennium-long reign of peace and harmony for those who survived. For the more secularly inclined, fears of Y2K calamity were paramount. Hope was reduced to the ability to stow away in well-stocked shelters to weather the technological fallout. Either way-and these were not mutually exclusive by any means-there was a sense that some kind of calamity would descend full force upon us and out of that a new world order would begin. It is useful to locate Empire within this context, not only because it reflects so many of the ideological coordinates of Millennial Madness, but also because one particularly worrisome effect of the September 11, 2001 assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has been to rekindle intense levels of fear and hope that are endemic to apocalyptic and millennial belief. A June 2002 Time/ CNN poll reports, for example, that 36 percent of Americans watch the evening news to see how it relates to the end of the world as foretold by God, and 59 percent believe that the events depicted in the Book of Revelation will come true.2 Compounding this embrace of apocalyptic conviction is the astounding success of the Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B.Jenkins.3 Fusing together international political events with fictional accounts of the

impending end of the world, these novels accentuate gore and violence in order to bring people into the fundamentalist fold. The series of twelve novels has so far sold over 32 million copies. Since only half of the readers are evangelicals, the series has apparently tapped into widespread cultural anxiety.4