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Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 [Paperback]

Neil Howe , William Strauss
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 30, 1992 0688119123 978-0688119126 Reprint

Hailed by national leaders as politically diverse as former Vice President Al Gore and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Generations has been heralded by reviewers as a brilliant, if somewhat unsettling, reassessment of where America is heading.

William Strauss and Neil Howe posit the history of America as a succession of generational biographies, beginning in 1584 and encompassing every-one through the children of today. Their bold theory is that each generation belongs to one of four types, and that these types repeat sequentially in a fixed pattern. The vision of Generations allows us to plot a recurring cycle in American history -- a cycle of spiritual awakenings and secular crises -- from the founding colonists through the present day and well into this millenium.

Generations is at once a refreshing historical narrative and a thrilling intuitive leap that reorders not only our history books but also our expectations for the twenty-first century.


Frequently Bought Together

Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 + The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny + Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ex-Capitol Hill aides Strauss and Howe analyze American history according to a convoluted theory of generational cycles, concocting a chronicle that often seems as woolly as a newspaper horoscope.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 538 pages
  • Publisher: Quill; Reprint edition (September 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688119123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688119126
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
155 of 160 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy Two Copies! January 13, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A friend of mine lent me this book in 2002. Skeptical about any book purporting to predict the future, I immediately read their predictions section - after all, the book was published ten years before. To my surprise, I found that their predictions for 1992-2002 were largely correct! So I started again, at the beginning. The book is a work of genius.

The central tenet of this book is that generations don't age the same way, and when looking at generations through history, the correct way to look at them is by cohort - that is, by groups with similar birth years - rather than by age. In other words, if you're born in 1950 and grow up in the '60s and '70s, you'll be different at age 50 than you will if you're born in 1970 and grow up in the '80s and '90s. Strauss and Howe then trace a number of generational cohorts through American History, and find evidence of a cycle of generational types - usually a four part cycle, but in one case a three part cycle. For example, they liken Gen X (whom they call "13ers"), born in 1961-1980, to the "Lost" generation born in the late 1800s.

As a trailing edge boomer, born in 1960, I was not surprised to find that the authors, both boomers, correctly identify the defining characteristics of my generation - characteristics that I happen to dislike, as I'm in the minority that don't fit the mold all that well, but that I have to acknowledge as accurate for the majority. On the other hand, the description of the Silent generation, to which my parents belong, was an eye opener - it explained well why my fathers views of what different stages in a man's life are like seemed to alien to me.
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131 of 137 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Strauss and Howe have written several books since this one, expanding upon their general historical thesis. But this one is the seminal book, the important one, and the one on which the others are based.

The book basically is a theory of American history that is premised on generational behavior. The authors have been quite successful in explaining and in some instances predicting the cycles of events, values and opinions of American society. It's very much worth reading simply because the reader is likely to experience an enhanced understanding of what is happening around him/her in the body politic.

The basic insight in this book is a simple one: Instead of trying to build a theory of American history (as did Arthur Schlesinger) that is based on unexplained "cycles" and "swings" from liberal to conservative and back again, why not simply look at how American generations behave as they age? When you do that, as Strauss and Howe have found, you find that American generations behave with a certain consistency throughout their lives. If their formative experiences push them in a certain direction while young, they'll continue to act in that way as they get older. That is, if you understand that history is really the process of different generations moving through time, then the swings of American history no longer look so mysterious; they appear as predictable manifestations of the fact that different generations with different life experiences have risen to the foreground.

Of course, you don't want to take all of this too sweepingly, or else it starts to seem like astrology or historical biorhythms. Generations are diverse groups, and no two people within a generation are exactly alike.
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88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but take it with a grain of salt October 26, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I found Strauss and Howe's hypothesis of a four-stroke generational cycle fascinating, and it does have a lot to say about groups behavior, especially how society treats its members of different ages at different points in time. It also suggests points of departure for other historical studies, like why bebop, modern science fiction, and slapstick Hollywood cartoons developed at about the same time. (A personal note; many of my favorite classical composers were born between 1860 and 1885, which nearly coincides with Strauss and Howe's "Missionary" generation.) Finally, the book has a lot to suggest about the nature of historical interpretation--how similar events occuring at different times might inspire very different reactions. The idea becomes problematic when the writers extrapolate from the behavior of groups to the behavior of individuals. First of all, some of their examples don't fit with the generations they cite. (Grace Slick, for example, was actually born in 1941, putting her in the "Silent" generation instead of the "Baby Boom".) Secondly, the profiles Strauss and Howe construct for "typical" members of particular generations are so general, it's easy to find some things descriptive of oneself and the people one knows. Because human beings tend to want to impose patterns on behavior where none may exist, these generational profiles don't necessarily have any more validity than, say, horoscopes. Another problem is that the hypothesis is only extended to the USA. While the appendix has some speculations on how the four-stroke cycle might work elsewhere, the writers don't provide the support for it that they do for this country. This leads one to wonder if the cycle applies outside the USA at all. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars "A very good bad book"
The authors cite Karl Mannheim a lot, but Mannheim had their number in his 1923 essay The Problem of Generations:

"The biological fact of the existence of... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Hiroyuki S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Prophetic book
If one has an interest in historical cycles, this is a very good book. It is at once a history of past generations and a loose prediction of the nature of future one. Read more
Published 23 days ago by The South Plainsman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, great condition
As advertised. Great book. Great condition. Quick delivery. As for the content, I am a huge fan of Strauss and Howe, their theory is eye opening. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Matthew B.
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Book of Prophesy
This book argues that American history is driven by how generational arrangements line up. American generations are basically a four-stroke engine starting with a generation of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Carl Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Generational bliss
This book and research confirms what I've thought for some time. Yes, some generalizations occur but ultimately it's spot on.
Published 3 months ago by John D. Antesberger
4.0 out of 5 stars My son loves this book
I bought this book for my son because he was asking for it. He loves it. He is more than half way thru it. It's a difficult read, but very interesting.
Published 5 months ago by Paige L. Habgood
5.0 out of 5 stars The future is NOW!
I read a review about this book when it came out, and bought it a few years ago at a used bookstore. Read more
Published 6 months ago by John N. Ivan
4.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm....
My wife is a history buff and she is enjoying this book. I find it a little dry and in need of a few explosions or car chases or something. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Obijohnkenobi
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought it brilliant in 1993, and has proved itself since
As a tail end 59er who was always out of step w my rebellious boomer group, it is nice to see a 60er below who feels similarly. I lived what this book describes. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Johnny K
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
This is a very interesting read. I read GENERATIONS years ago, loaned someone my copy, and never got it back. I was happy to find it available through Amazon. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Helen N. Mcleavy
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