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The Fourth Turning: What Does It Tell Us About The Future?

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Year 2000 Economics
by Daniel


The Fourth Turning is a book about human social cycles in America written by two respected generational historians, Howe and Strauss. (Click here to visit their web site.)

They make a very convincing case for a disaster and era of economic depression and crisis, possibly total war, in the coming years. Like the Kondratieff wave, based on price behaviour over time, they are essentially interpreting the "Long Cycle" through characteristics of generational aspects.

Although in the book they expect this era of crisis-- the fourth turning-- to begin by 2005 and last untill 2025, They give leeway in saying "give or take a few years." It seems clear with present trends it is just around the corner. We are (and will be) witnessing a massive Global Realignment that could be the precursor for what they (and I) envision: World War Three.

Below is a book description from the inside flap followed by exerpts from the book. Obviously this won't do justice. Read the book...It's worth it!


First came the postwar High, then the Awakening of the '60s and '70s, and now the Unraveling. This audacious and provocative book tells us what to expect just beyond the start of the next century. Are you ready for the Fourth Turning?

Strauss and Howe will change the way you see the world--and your place in it. In The Fourth Turning, they apply their generational theories to the cycles of history and locate America in the middle of an unraveling period, on the brink of a crisis. How you prepare for this crisis--the Fourth Turning--is intimately connected to the mood and attitude of your particular generation. Are you one of the can-do "GI generation," who triumphed in the last crisis? Do you belong to the mediating "Silent Majority," who enjoyed the 1950s High? Do you fall into the "awakened" Boomer category of the 1970s and 1980s, or are you a Gen-Xer struggling to adapt to our splintering world? Whatever your stage of life, The Fourth Turning offers bold predictions about how all of us can prepare, individually and collectively, for America's next rendezvous with destiny.

...from The Fourth Turning (Chapter 1)

Winter Is Coming America feels like it?s unraveling.

Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.

Neither an epic victory over Communism nor an extended upswing of the business cycle can buoy our public spirit. The Cold War and New Deal struggles are plainly over, but we are of no mind to bask in their successes. The America of today feels worse, in its fundamentals, than the one many of us remember from youth, a society presided over by those of supposedly lesser consciousness. Wherever we look, from L.A. to D.C., from Oklahoma City to Sun City, we see paths to a foreboding future. We yearn for civic character but satisfy ourselves with symbolic gestures and celebrity circuses. We perceive no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves. Small wonder that each new election brings a new jolt, its aftermath a new disappointment.

Not long ago, America was more than the sum of its parts. Now, it is less. Around World War II, we were proud as a people but modest as individuals. Fewer than two people in ten said yes when asked ?Are you a very important person?? Today, more than six in ten say yes. Where we once thought ourselves collectively strong, we now regard ourselves as individually entitled.

Yet even while we exalt our own personal growth, we realize that millions of self-actualized persons don?t add up to an actualized society. Popular trust in virtually every American institution-from businesses and governments to churches and newspapers-keeps falling to new lows. Public debts soar, the middle class shrinks, welfare dependencies deepen, and cultural wars worsen by the year. We now have the highest incarceration rate, and the lowest eligible-voter participation rate, of any major democracy. Statistics inform us that many adverse trends (crime, divorce, abortion, scholastic aptitudes) may have bottomed out, but we?re not reassured.

Optimism still attaches to self, but no longer to family or community. Most Americans express more hope for their own prospects than for their children?s-or the nation?s. Parents widely fear that the American Dream, which was there (solidly) for their parents and still there (barely) for them, will not be there for their kids. Young householders are reaching their mid-thirties never having known a time when America seemed to be on the right track. Middle-aged people look at their thin savings accounts and slim-to-none pensions, scoff at an illusory Social Security trust fund, and try not to dwell on what a burden their old age could become. Seniors separate into their own Leisure World, recoiling at the lost virtue of youth while trying not to think about the future.

We perceive our civic challenge as some vast, insoluble Rubik?s Cube. Behind each problem lies another problem that must be solved first, and behind that lies yet another, and another, ad infinitum. To fix crime we have to fix the family, but before we do that we have to fix welfare, and that means fixing our budget, and that means fixing our civic spirit, but we can?t do that without fixing moral standards, and that means fixing schools and churches, and that means fixing the inner cities, and that?s impossible unless we fix crime. There?s no fulcrum on which to rest a policy lever. People of all ages sense that something huge will have to sweep across America before the gloom can be lifted-but that?s an awareness we suppress. As a nation, we?re in deep denial.

While we grope for answers, we wonder if analysis may be crowding out our intuition. Like the anxious patient who takes 17 kinds of medicine while poring over his own CAT scan, we find it hard to stop and ask: What is the underlying malady really about? How can we best bring the primal forces of nature to our assistance? Isn?t there a choice lying somewhere between total control and total despair? Deep down, beneath the tangle of trend lines, we suspect that our history or biology or very humanity must have something simple and important to say to us. But we don?t know what it is. If we once did know, we have since forgotten.

Wherever we?re headed, America is evolving in ways most of us don?t like or understand. Individually focused yet collectively adrift, we wonder if we?re heading toward a waterfall. Are we?

Good question. Are we?

The reward of the historian is to locate patterns that recur over time and to discover the natural rhythms of social experience.

In fact, at the core of modern history lies this remarkable pattern: Over the past five centuries, Anglo-American society has entered a new era-a new turning-every two decades or so. At the start of each turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture, the nation, and the future. Turnings come in cycles of four. Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly 80 to 100 years, a unit of time the ancients called the saeculum. Together, the four turnings of the saeculum comprise history?s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction: