The Fourth Turning (part 1)

I’ve started rereading the “Fourth Turning” by William Strauss and Neil Howe. I’ve already read it once, but it was more along the lines me trying to find out what’s going on now, as opposed to understanding the concept.

I’ve pretty much finished reviewing the first part again.

A quick primer would be to stop defining periods in the role of linear time and start thinking of them as seasons. There are four seasons, called Turnings, in this model starting with the High (Spring), Awakening (Summer), Unraveling (Fall), and Crisis (Winter). We are in the crisis phase now, heading rapidly to a peak.

The point here about turnings is the last between 85 and 100 years, and during the fourth turning the peak crisis ends with some sort of major calamity. In the United States pretty much since its founding, these time spans have been 85 years more or less. He refers to each “Turning” as a “Saeculum”, roughly a period of 20 years, or the time a generation spends in power (More or less)

In order to understand these turnings and what happens, you have to understand that each turning produces an archetype that describes the people born in that period. He uses Hero, Artist, Prophet and Nomad. These correlate to generations. In our world the Hero would be Silent, the Prophet would be Boomer, Gen X would be Nomad, and Millennial would be Artist.

These archetypes are surprisingly accurate. I fit the exact description of a Generation X Nomad. He does go through a section that correlates to today’s generations and the different characteristics that they possess and how society views them. It’s really fascinating stuff, and really close to how things are. Interestingly, those same archetypes can be found in each turnings generations throughout the centuries.

The the section on accidents and anomalies was actually kind of interesting and get to the point of how these archetypes interact with the mood of the current turning, and how they are an essential part of what happens and why for each turning.

“… The saeculum neither predicts them nor precludes them. Yes, history always dishes out accidents. But for the saeculum, what matters most are not the accidents themselves, but rather society’s response to them. To understand how this works, select an accident, transport it to another decade, and try to replay its effect. Move the Watergate break-in back 40 years: would circa 1934 America have been receptive to a pair of G.I. reporters eager to bring down a Missionary president recently elected by enormous landslide? Of course not. Or move the Great Depression forward 40 years: would circa 1974 boomers have coped with the economic bust by cheerfully donning uniforms, joining paramilitary publics works programs, and building a TVA? Not likely.”

The Fourth Turning

No kidding. “Missionary” generation would be those born 1860-1882, so a president in 1934 would have been that generation. “GI” was born 1901-1924, those that fought WW2. He has Gen-X as 1961-1981 (They keep moving that early age up, ’61 is where it was forever).

Interestingly, Biden, is a late “Silent”. Born in 1942. An interesting attribute of Silents – Leadership Style Entering Elderhood: Pluralistic, Indecisive. Wow.

And about technology…

”Do these new technologies really changes, or do they just give us precisely what we want when we want it?”

The Fourth Turning

Yeah, you thought Facebook was like it was because of Zuckerberg. He’s fulfilling a need from screeching Karen busybodies that want this. He’s catering to the mindset of people, as is twitter, that it’s perfectly okay to cancel, or ruin somebody that doesn’t think like them.

“The linearist view of technology fails to appreciate the dangers a new turning can bring. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is now predicting that everyone soon will tune into a world of unlimited options via high-tech portable devices. What he nowhere mentions is that by merely reversing a few circuits the same technology could empower central authority to monitor what every individual is doing.”

The Fourth Turning

This was written in 1996 by the way. Isn’t that damn close to what we have now?

“Consider a few other technologies Americans have recently associated with individual choice- birth control and genetic testing- and imagine a similar shift for them. While few Americans want to revisit the forced sterilization and eugenics vogue of the 1930s, we would be imprudent to declare that a higher tech America will never again lurch in that direction.”

The Fourth Turning

This is where I use the line ”it’s all fun and games…” As in it’s all fun and games until somebody uses it on you and does something you don’t like. I’m talking to you, cancel culture. The pendulum swings. Farther it swings one way the farther is going to swing another.

Another interesting part is where you take this knowledge of the archetypes in the turnings and go back and look through history to see the very same outcomes being repeated again and again. Very interesting about wars that happen during each of the turnings:

High – era wars were all echoes of the prior crisis, from the war of 1812 (reconfirming the revolution) to the Korean War (reconfirming the global postwar order). These wars tended to be standoffs. Patience was high, enthusiasm low.

Awakening- era wars were all enmeshed with the passions of youth- from the boozy revivalist who assaulted Louisbourg in 1745 to the days of rage “student strikers in 1970″ domestic turmoil drove military decisions, making each war controversial in its time and badly remembered afterwards. [Ed. Note: Vietnam was in this era]

Unraveling- era wars were all swiftly victorious and momentarily popular from the capture of Québec to liberation of Kuwait. But they were ultimately on cathartic because they fail to alter the underlying social mood. Enthusiasm was high, patience low.

Crisis- era wars were all large, deadly, and divisive. Homefront resolve conformed to the visions of Elder leaders, and the outcome totally redefined the kingdom, nation, or empire.

Does the rhythm of the saeculum make major war unavoidable? No one knows. An Awakening does not require war. Nor, perhaps, does a Crisis- even though every fourth turning since the 15th century has culminated in total war. History teaches only that whatever wars do happen always reflect the mood of the current turning. Wars in the fourth turning find the broadest possible definition and are fought to unambiguous outcomes. This suggests that, had the Japanese not attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States would’ve found some other provocation to declare total war against the axis powers.

The Fourth Turning

It’s really interesting stuff, what catches me is throughout history the pattern is pretty clear.

Once things quiet down here, and I’m done cleaning up, I’ll dive into the second part.

To be continued.