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Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 Paperback – September 30, 1992

ISBN-13: 978-0688119126 ISBN-10: 0688119123 Edition: Reprint

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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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 538 pages
  • Publisher: Quill; Reprint edition (September 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688119123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688119126
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It's a difficult read, but very interesting.
Paige L. Habgood
I read a review about this book when it came out, and bought it a few years ago at a used bookstore.
John N. Ivan
It will definitely change how you think and comprehend history and the future to come.
Mr. J

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

156 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Warren J. Dew on 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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132 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Odysseus on January 2, 2006
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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89 of 95 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 1999
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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