November 6, 2012
“The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark 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. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. 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.” – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning
Strauss & Howe wrote these words in 1997. They had predicted the arrival of another Crisis in this time frame in their previous book Generations, written in 1990. This wasn’t guesswork on their part. They understood the dynamics of how generations interact and how the mood of the country shifts every twenty or so years based upon the generational alignment that occurs as predictably as the turning of the seasons. The last generation that lived through the entire previous Crisis from 1929 through 1946 has virtually died off. This always signals the onset of the next Fourth Turning. The housing bubble and its ultimate implosion created the spark for the current Crisis that began in September 2008, with the near meltdown of the worldwide financial system. Just as the stock market crash of 1929, the election of Lincoln in 1860, and the Boston Tea Party in 1773 catalyzed a dramatic mood change in the country, the Wall Street created financial collapse in 2008 has ushered in a twenty year period of agony, suffering, war and ultimately the annihilation of the existing social order.
We have experienced the American High (Spring) from 1946 until 1964, witnessing America’s ascendancy as a global superpower. We survived the turbulent Consciousness Revolution Awakening (Summer) from 1964 until 1984, as Vietnam era protests morphed into yuppie era greed. The Long Boom/Culture Wars Unraveling (Fall) lasted from Reagan’s Morning in America in 1984 until the 2008 Wall Street/Federal Reserve spawned crash. The pessimism built to a crescendo as worry about rising violence and incivility, widening wealth inequality, and the splitting of the national consensus into extremes on the left and right, led the country into a winter of discontent. The Global Financial Crisis (Winter) has arrived in full fury and is likely to last until the late 2020’s. It will be an era of upheaval, financial turbulence, economic collapse, war, and the complete redefinition of society, as the existing corrupt status quo is swept away in the fury of powerful hurricane winds of change. History is cyclical and we’ve entered the most dangerous season, when the choices we make as a nation will have profound long lasting implications to the lives of future unborn generations.
The linear thinkers and so called progressives who believe that history charges relentlessly forward and human ingenuity overcomes all obstacles as the world becomes progressively richer, advanced, and humane ignore the lessons of history that have been re-written every 80 to 100 years for centuries. Generational theory is so simple that even an Ivy League intellectual economist, corrupt congressman, or CNBC anchor bimbo could grasp the basic concept. The four turnings in the ongoing cycle of history match a long human life. There is a reason we forget the lessons of the past. Those who remember the lessons die off after 80 years. The linear thinking status quo keep predicting an improving economy based upon their beliefs that the next fifteen years will proceed in a similar fashion to the last fifteen years. They refuse to acknowledge we’ve entered a new era that cannot be reversed to a previous point in time. Once you’ve experienced the harsh bitter winds of the Winter, you have to deal with months of depressing darkness, harsh conditions, and stormy weather before experiencing the return of the warm breezes of Spring. The tranquil days of autumn are long gone. This dynamic can be clearly visualized by comparing our economic situation in 2007, prior to entering this Fourth Turning, to our economic situation today: