Generational Theory

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On Wednesday Night, November 7th , we will discuss the “Generational Theory” proposed by Neil Howe and William Strauss in their 1997 book called “The Fourth Turning.” In the last few years, I’ve seen several references to “The Fourth Turning” which caused me to do a little research on this theory.

Howe & Strauss studied American History and discovered a pattern that seems to repeat itself every 80 years or so. Within the 80 years, they describe significant changes (which they call “turnings”) in society every 20 years.

The first turning, they call a “High”. This high follows some kind of major crisis in our history. In order to deal with a crisis, our government and social institutions become very strong and individualism becomes weak. Everyone seemed to unify and conform their behavior to meet and beat this crisis.

The second turning is called an “Awakening.” After the crisis is over and the victory is won – there is usually a season of prosperity in the country. This causes an awakening in the next generation to complain about these strong institutions and a cry for more personal freedom once the crisis is over.

The third turning is an “Unraveling.” This generation demands even more freedom than their parents. This leads to a distrust and weakening of social institutions and an attitude of less duty toward the nation and more enjoyment of the freedoms and prosperity made possible by living in a strong nation.

The fourth turning is a “Crisis.”  As the nation’s institutions become weaker and individual freedoms become stronger, there is usually a crisis of some kind that forces this “Fourth Turning” generation to have to rise up and unify in order to deal with the crisis.  Howe & Strauss describe The American Revolution, The Civil War, and World War II as crisis points in American History. They predict that America is due for another Fourth Turning Crisis and the “Millennial” generation (ready or not) will be forced into that generation which will lead America either to defeat or the next “High.”

What do you think?

Is this Generational Theory true?

  • Yes (48%, 10 Votes)
  • Undecided (48%, 10 Votes)
  • No (5%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 21

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