The Fourth Turning
The Fourth Turning

Strauss & Howe’s The Fourth Turning is looking more prescient by the day. It was written in the late 90’s and has done a reasonable job of predicting the future, unlike most economic and climate model predictions. The prediction and central thesis is:

“Just after the millennium, America will enter a new era that will culminate with a crisis comparable to the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II. The survival of the nation will almost certainly be at stake.

Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of American history as a series of recurring 80- to 100-year cycles. Each cycle has four “turnings”-a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling, and a Crisis. The authors locate today’s America as midway through an Unraveling, roughly a decade away from the next Crisis (or Fourth Turning).”

There are also interesting reviews on Amazon that accord with my recollection. Nassim Taleb would no doubt say that I am being “Fooled by Randomness”. Lots of books are published predicting the future. By chance at least one of them will be right. In this case the book that is right is The Fourth Turning.

It is the book that has done a reasonable job of predicting the future from its published date to now that comes to my attention. The accuracy of the book flows from chance, rather than the soundness of its approach. That said, having quickly moved from climate cycles to business cycles I’m sympathetic to cyclical phenomena in history.

Even if its central thesis is wrong, The Fourth Turning is a fascinating read. The concept that there are significant events that will shape the attitude of a generation seems sound. There was an attitude of thrift amongst many of those who lived through the depression. No doubt Perl Harbour and 9/11 mark similar landmark psychological events.

Lee Harris’s “The Next American Civil War” also offers some insights into what might be happening:

“Harris explains the nature and significance of the “tea party” movement as the latest phase in the evolution of America’s redefining and grappling with it’s notions of liberty. He sees this all as part of a dynamic and creative process the consequences of which are of the utmost importance. Simply put we are currently witnessing the latest populist revolt against elitist authority in American History. What’s different this time is that the revolt is a conservative uprising against authority and not a left wing one. This is a revolt which strives to maintain something which is perceived as being lost as the government in Washington grasps greater and greater overweening powers in the name of doing good for and serving those who it believes are incapable of deciding for themselves what is good for them. This is all within the grand tradition of grassroots American political movements except that the actors have reversed roles. And that’s what makes something seemingly very old in actually something quite new.”  (Michael B. Dipietro, Comments)

Although I dislike the term ornery, it does seem an apt description of one segment of the population. It is this segment Lee Harris thinks is leading the revolt against the elites. The book is well worth reading.



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