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The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny Paperback – December 29, 1997
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The Fourth Turning continues the project of mapping out the place of generations in history, a project begun in the authors' earlier books Generations and 13th Gen. If millennial fever takes hold, The Fourth Turning may be only the first of an impending wave of pseudo-scholarly tracts prognosticating future (but imminent!) doom as we collectively close the books on this millennium. Those expecting a serious or dry tome might be put off by the authors' taste for bulleted text and catchy phrasings, but can you blame these guys for wanting to make impending peril as exciting as possible? After all, they think we are headed toward "events on par with the Revolution, the Civil War, or World War II" in the next 20 years. Mixing solid understanding of present generational divisions, with some fairly broad generalizations, Strauss and Howe promise to move from history to prophecy. Fans of Future Shock, Megatrends, or Powershift will be familiar with the authors' style of writing and not at all put off by the book's reach or style. Their take on history provides an intriguing (if not always reliable) lens through which to view the past, present, and maybe even the future. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
After researching historical patterns, the authors (Generations: The History of America's Future, Morrow, 1991) conclude that America is on the verge of crisis. They substantiate their hypothesis by identifying and tracing a repetitive, four-stage historical cycle that, throughout recorded time, started on a high note and ended in hardship. Narrator Michael Tilford's polished, convincing voice and steady pacing lend an air of legitimacy to the authors' assertions. A brief question-and-answer session between the narrator and the authors at program's end provides an interactive quality that enhances the sometimes methodical drone of the historical analysis. Like other works of prophecy, The Fourth Turning should circulate well in public libraries.?Mark P. Tierney, The World Bank, Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In a nutshell, the book advances the view that history roughly repeats itself every 80 years. Further, every 80 year period is characterized by the arrival of Artists (silent generation in this cycle), Prophets (boomers), Nomads (Gen Xers) and Heroes (millennials). Previous incarnations of this cycle ended with the war of independence, the civil war and world war II. This naturally sets up the denouement for this cycle which the authors expect to occur in the 2025 time frame. Each cycle is divided into turnings: the present one is characterized by First (High: 1946-1964), Second (Awakening: 1964-1984), Third (Unraveling: 1984-2008) and Fourth (Crisis: 2008-202X). From the book's perspective and Neil Howe's subsequent blog posts, we entered the Fourth Turning in 2008. There's nothing spooky or mystical about these cycles and turnings: instead the authors stress that human nature and culture seem to have these rhythms and that Anglo-American history is stable enough to be characterized in this manner. Other cultures may either be too stable or too chaotic to follow this type of pattern.
Prior to the arrival of Donald Trump and despite the eerie portend of the financial crisis, I would have dismissed this book. Now, it looks positively prophetic. Is there any doubt now that the combination of (i) income inequality, (ii) the economic problems of the white working class, (iii) the culture wars, (iv) multiculturalism and globalism, (v) the ravages of identity politics and postmodernism and (vi) terrorism is not going to be a combustible mix over the next decade? And that these will simultaneously distract us from combating global warming - the clear threat of the next era? While I find it hard to buy into the notion that the US will face an existential crisis (as predicted by the book), there's definitely merit in the view that the next ten years will probably have the capability of shocking us however jaded we may be at the present time.
Written twelve years ago, this book examines our understanding of what winds the clock of history and our expectations of what future time may bring. It is based on two notions, a periodicy recognized by ancient Greeks and Romans, the "saeculum," and the idea that we are all members of defined generations. These are not radical ideas, since a saeculum is roughly eighty years (the 'long life' recognized in Biblical times) and we all admit to being a member of some generation, whatever its name. What is radical is that Strauss and Howe superimpose the ideas of saeculum and generations (four generations equal a saeculum) on Anglo-American history and then invite our attention to the fascinating results.
No doubt it is their analysis that led to the misleading subtitle "An American Prophecy." Misleading, because the book does not foretell America's specific future. Instead, in 1997 when the authors wrote it, the book foretells that an American crisis will arrive on schedule in what they call the "oh oh decade." Twelve years later we have arrived in the "oh oh years," and we sense we are in a crisis. What happens during that crisis and, more importantly, what happens afterwards is largely left to the reader, though in 1997 the authors listed the elements that they reckoned would be in the crisis and their list is uncannily correct.
Those reviewers who gave this book five stars understood its reasoning and message. Those who did not like the book were either believers in lineal cultural history (the inevitable march to utopia) or they did not understand it (the prose was 'too confused') or they found the ideas in conflict with their education or preconceived misconceptions of history and current events. It would have been instructive if each had put the year of their birth in their review and noted the generation of which they believe themselves a member.
As I write this, Amazon has 83 reviews of "The Fourth Turning," including reprints of book reviews from the media -- positive or negative, that number of reviews is a testament to the importance of this seminal work of William Strauss and Neil Howe. It is a book that should be read by all Americans, whatever their generation.
Chet Nagle is the author of "Iran Covenant" a thrilling novel about Iran's nuclear weapons program and how to end it Iran Covenant