The short teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, released this weekend, is well on its way to becoming the most popular trailer of all time, with more than 52 million views to date. In part, that’s obviously because any new installment in one of the most revered film franchises in history is likely to excite the faithful. But there may be more to the reverence this time around: the space saga rose to prominence decades ago, but the wild spirit that has made it so popular—that whole bit about the Force and the Jedi and fighting the Evil Empire—is only now beginning to make sense in full. It took us nearly forty years, but we’ve finally managed to craft a world worthy of Han and Luke’s vision.
When the original film came out, in 1977, the nation was struggling to recover from a severe recession. To hear the President tell it, the economic slide had a lot to do with a productivity slowdown: slow technical progress, exceedingly high energy costs, and other factors made work difficult for Americans, the majority of whom commuted every morning to large offices operated by larger corporations and did work that was only sporadically satisfying. It’s of little wonder, then, that when faced with a vision of a Rebel Alliance standing up against an empire that was greedy and uncaring, most Americans cheered. If you worked in something that felt a lot like the Death Star, if you witnessed your productivity and your creativity dwindle, if you frequently stopped to wonder if you weren’t secretly some sort of corporate clone, you were deeply thrilled to see Darth Vader, the original horrible boss, get his comeuppance.
Thankfully, that is no longer the case. New technologies, new philosophies, and new communal structures have enabled more and more of us to break the mold and do what we actually love. Consider the term we use to describe what is perhaps the key feature of our economy: disruption. The core definition of the disruption economy, according to its best thinkers, is the ability to give the many access to products or services that were previously available only to the few and the privileged. This, more or less, is also the central plot line of the Star Wars series, a galactic struggle between those who wish to centralize and control all resources and those who believe in small and balanced creative communities working together to preserve their values and their environments. Every entrepreneur who has ever stared up at an enormous, unfeeling, ossified industry he or she just had to remake knows exactly how Luke Skywalker feels. These days, then, we’re all rebels, and we all use the Force: like that elusive power that makes one a great Jedi, the force that turns so many of us into successful entrepreneurs can’t be captured or defined—it has to be felt, and it catapults to greatness those companies that are able to answer not only the material needs of their consumers but their emotional needs as well.
Next year, then, when the new Star Wars movie is finally released, the young audience members who’ll flock to the theaters will be seeing George Lucas’s universe in an entirely different light. They won’t be overworked cogs serving a sad economy, but innovators whose main skill is their cerebral command of large information systems. To these kids, the world Han and Luke fought so hard to create will be obvious and utterly natural. And that, as the Star Wars annals might’ve put it, is all the reason we need for a new hope.
This piece originally ran in the We Work Magazine. Republished with permission.