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A Book Review-The Fourth Turning

March 18, 2011

Cover of "The Fourth Turning"

Cover of The Fourth Turning

The Fourth Turning, an American Prophecy

By William Strauss and Neil Howe…What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with History

Greetings, dear reader.  I just finished reading this book, The Fourth Turning, and felt I would share with you what I learned.  Being a student of history, this book, written in 1997, caught me with the by-line.  What do the cycles of history tell us?  What cycles of history?  Well, the authors break up American (and English) history into seasons, much like we gardeners do- Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.  They make the argument that one complete (historical) season is roughly equal to a person’s long lifetime, roughly about 80 years.  They refer to this as a Saeculum.  If one breaks the historical  period into four roughly equal seasons, they come out, again, roughly at 20 years each.  They postulate that America is about to head into the fourth season- Winter.

And when they wrote it in 1997 they predicted that (again – roughly) around the year 2005 an event would occur that would trigger the reaction of people that would bring on the winter. When they say winter they mean “Crisis”.   The 20 year seasons correspond to generations of people who are all brought up and conditioned in similar ways, so as a group, they respond to events similarly.  These people “types” are called Prophet, Nomad, Hero and Artist. The Prophet type usually reaches old age just in time to usher in a crisis.  And in the latest version of this cycle, the Baby Boom generation IS the Prophet group.

Now I am one of the Baby Boom generation, and so as I read I was also trying to assess the accuracy of what Strauss and Howe were suggesting. Then I read another article that was on LewRockwell, where that writer alleged that the housing bust started in 2005, and that the reaction of people to it were ushering in the Fourth Turning, that is; the changing from Autumn to Winter, or historically, from an Awakening to a Crisis.  And he might be right.

By the way, the last Crisis that America faced was the Great Depression.  The authors tell us that crisis season lasted from 1929 to 1945 when the Great War ended.  So if 2005 was a trigger event for the “next crisis”, then it might go from 2005 until 2025, or more (or less).  And sometimes it seems to fit, although the worst of it has not occurred yet, at least for Americans.

If you are a history buff, like me, then you will want to head on down to the library and check this book out.  It is fascinating to see history in cycles, rather much like a sine wave, going up – positive, down – neutral, down-negative and then up to neutral again, all in the span of one long human lifetime.  There is evidence to support the cyclical nature of history,  and there are tips near the end for how you can prepare yourself for the toughest twenty years of your life.  And although they don’t come right out and say “Read Uncle Milton’s blog everyday and do what he says”,  well I don’t  want to ruin the ending for you but …

Thanks for being here and reading the view from Bippus.

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