Every once in awhile I read a book that is so captivating I feel compelled to go back and read it again and again, eventually locating it on the top section of my book shelf for further reference. Invariably I end up giving it away to someone and have to purchase a Kindle copy to ensure I will always have it on hand.
The Fourth Turning by William Stauss and Neil Howe is one of those books. Amazing read. These two men deserve a Pultizer Prize for their research, insight and simple genius.
With exhaustive research and crisp analysis, Strauss and Howe explore events of the past, track trends of the present and project plausible models of the future. Here is the most exciting part: this book offers a gripping, prophetic prediction of a new American era that will break upon America during the opening decades of the new Millennium. According to their projections, we are in the middle of the Fourth Turning right now.
William Strauss and Neil Howe are historians par excellence. Their extensive examination of over five hundred years of American history have resulted in an amazing discovery that they detail in this masterpiece. Modern history, they surmise, moves in cycles, each one lasting about the length of a long human life, each composed of four eras–or “turnings”–that last about twenty years and that always arrive in the same order. Together, the four turnings comprise a “saeculum” –a full generation– which showcases history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, unraveling, and rebirth. Every 80 years the cycle repeats.
If you are a history buff like me, you will love this book. If you are into biographies, you will love this book. But that is just the starting point. The real secret sauce of The Fourth Turning is in the uncanny patterns that emerge. The book was published in ’97, and the authors warned at that time that we were on the verge of entering another Fourth Turning.
“The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, mid-way through the Oh-Oh decade…Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War and twin-emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II. The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort, in other words, total war.” (from the book)
Strauss and Howe locate today’s America as moving through the midst of the Fourth Turning, which began around 2008 and will extend through the 2020’s.. They draw detailed portraits of all the modern generations: the can-do G.I.s, the mediating Silent, the values-absorbed Boomers, the pragmatic 13ers, and the child Millennials.
Placed in the context of history’s long rhythms, the characteristics and role of each generation become clear–as the inevitable Crisis unfolds..
Whatever your stage of life, whatever cohort you belong to, The Fourth Turning will give you a greater appreciation for your place in history, and offers bold predictions about how all of us can prepare, individually and collectively, for America’s next rendezvous with destiny.