"Human history seems logical in afterthought but a mystery in forethought." - page 265
My husband read this book - twice - earlier in the year. He handed it to me over the summer and wanted me to read it, too, because he found it so interesting. My husband is not a reader in general. He reads slowly and deliberately, not generally for fun. So if he actually finished this book twice, I figured it must be important. I started reading it in August, but put it down until I had more time to absorb more of the details. (Fall=Back to School=Less Fluffy Reading)
The Fourth Turning, by social historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, is not a "fun" read. It's basically a textbook. An historical view of the past with predictions of how the past and present reflect on the future of our country. The main premise is based on an ancient Greek idea that history can be viewed as cyclical, as a saeculum, with four distinct seasons or "Turnings." The "Fourth Turning" is the Crisis phase, which according to the authors is what we're currently experiencing.
The generations can likewise be divided into four distinct archetypes depending on what part of the saeculum they are born during and what archetypes their parents are. A generation generally consists of children born within a 20-year time period. The authors trace the generational archetypes throughout history with graphs and tables, showing the similarities of behaviors of their archetypes during similar periods of the saeculum. American history and generations fit quite neatly into their historical premise.
Most interesting is that the book was written in 1997, well before the election of George W. Bush, the events of 9-11, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the failure of government during Katrina (Heck of a job, Brownie), the economic meltdown on Wall Street, the real estate foreclosure crisis... all of which are vaguely predicted in the final chapters of the book.
According to the authors, "A Fourth Turning is a solstice era of maximum darkness, in which the supply of social order is still falling, but the demand for order is now rising."
The authors write: "A Crisis era begins with a catalyst - a startling event (or sequence of events) that produces a sudden shift in mood... The catalyst can be one spark or, more commonly, a series of sparks that self-ignite like the firecrackers traditionally used by the Chinese to mark their own breaks in the circle of time. Each of these sparks is linked to a specific threat about which the society had been fully informed but against which it had left itself poorly protected. Afterward, the fact that these sparks were foreseeable but poorly foreseen gives rise to a new sense of urgency about institutional dysfunction and civic vulnerability. This marks the beginning of the vertiginous spiral of Crisis."
They also note that "This is a critical threshold: People either coalesce as a nation and culture - or rip hopelessly and permanently apart."
Like I said, not "fun" reading. But very interesting.