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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Fourth Turning - Revisited

So I'm re-reading The Fourth Turning, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. If you never read it before, or haven't read it since '97 or so, I urge you to pick it up, revisit it, and spend some time digesting the brilliance of these two historians.
In 1997, Strauss and Howe predicted that by 2005 America would encounter "a sudden spark (that) will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire."

Sound familiar? 9/11? Today's housing market? Gas prices? U.S.led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Dissent? Presidential approval rating lowest in decades? The U.S.dollar is worth less than some third world countrie's currancy today, need I go on?

How did a couple of historians predict, with such accuracy, the climate of our great nation in the wake of 9/11, the war on terror, the recession that "is not", the housing market crash, etc. at least 4 years prior to it happening? They explain, in their book, their theory about cycles in history and how they repeat with predictable accuracy. They map out for us how they have for generations and define each cycle, each pattern, and identify the archetypes associated with the rise and fall of each cycle.

History repeating itself, but in cycles that can be mapped and predicted.

In other words, the cyclical view of time believes that which is old will one day be new again. Though mostly forgotten by our post-modern, urban contemporaries, a simple example of cyclical time is the turning of the seasons. Winter to spring, spring to summer, summer to fall, and back to winter – which is both old and new again. This cycle continues throughout centuries, never failing, never skipping a beat. Seasons may be different, one spring may be more rainy than another, but they come in sequential order, time and time again.
Likewise, according to Strauss and Howe, within the social realm, there are social seasons as sure as there are climatic ones. This book explains them, defines them, and shows us how to predict with a meteoriologist's dopplar radar accuracy, when the next "storm" will hit.

Funny how we tend to heed the warnings after the fact. I am revisiting The Fourth Turning and finding that I more fully understand the concepts today than I did 10 years ago. Is it age and maturity? Or experience of the past 10 years that enable me to read it today with new eyes? Either way, I am getting more from it today than I did back then, and I propose that you will too. No worries, it's not all gloom and doom. Strauss and Howe show us how to change the course of history in the making. This book is about empowering us to see patterns so that we can take control and make the changes necessary to ensure a better future for us, our children, and our children's children. That's a lesson worth learning, isn't it?

4 cookies cracked:

Jay said...

I may check that book out at the library. I agree that it's always interesting when people basically predict the political and social climate accurately.

Karen said...

I am a HUGE believer in cycles. In our society there isn't much that is new socially or politically.

My study of cycles is also why I don't believe in the scam that is Global Warming. ;-)

gr said...

I remember a feeling of foreboding starting in 2000--the late 90s were just too great, financially etc. Then W stole the presidency and 9/11 and and and....but you know what? Maybe the tide can start to change if we change the leadership and all these young people show how pissed off they are about the last 8 years and how the country is being pushed over a cliff.

Fortune Cookies said...

Jay - I highly recommend it. It's a very insightful and intriguing look at both our history and our future.

Karen - I too am a believer in cycles, but I do believe that the damage that we are doing to the earth's atmosphere is real as is the depletion of natural resources.

gr - "if we change the leadership and all these young people show how pissed off they are" this is precisely the message of The Fourth Turning. It is time once again for another generation to become pissed off and take a stand and enact some real changes.