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Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 Paperback – September 30, 1992
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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.
From the Back Cover
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.
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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. The description of Gen X was likewise enlightening, both in terms of explaining some of my previous business interactions with Gen Xers (they had always seem so surprised when someone actually gave them a break - turns out it's because they hardly ever got breaks from boomers) and helped me understand and interact much better with one particular Gen X who is very important to me - my wife. The description of the Millenials seems to be accurate so far for undergraduates I work with.
Two caveats when reading this book - first, remember it's American history, and the conclusions don't apply to those born overseas; second, the authors seem to emphasize the optimistic view of the future, for example focusing on the possibility that the current cycle will be a triumphant four part cycle, rather than an agonizing three part cycle as the Civil War cycle was. We don't yet know which way things will go.
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