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The Fourth Turning continues the project of mapping out the place of generations in history, a project begun in the authors' earlier books Generations and 13th Gen. If millennial fever takes hold, The Fourth Turning may be only the first of an impending wave of pseudo-scholarly tracts prognosticating future (but imminent!) doom as we collectively close the books on this millennium. Those expecting a serious or dry tome might be put off by the authors' taste for bulleted text and catchy phrasings, but can you blame these guys for wanting to make impending peril as exciting as possible? After all, they think we are headed toward "events on par with the Revolution, the Civil War, or World War II" in the next 20 years. Mixing solid understanding of present generational divisions, with some fairly broad generalizations, Strauss and Howe promise to move from history to prophecy.
An impasse over the federal budget reaches a stalemate. The president and Congress both refuse to back down, triggering a near-total government shutdown. The president declares emergency powers. Congress rescinds his authority. Dollar and bond prices plummet. The president threatens to stop Social Security checks. Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling. Default looms. Wall Street panics.
The four generations are as follows:
The Hero Generation. Like America's G.I. generation, these are the young men and women that fight in a crisis period. After the crisis ends, they become society's powerful civic leaders who build new institutions that promote social order and productive activity. They become hubristic, and in their elder years, they're attacked politically by their children in the Prophet generation.
The Artist Generation. Like America's Silent generation, they grow up as children during the crisis period, come of age as sensitive young adults, and grow old becoming indecisive but empathetic leaders.
The Prophet Generation. Like America's Baby Boomers, they're born after the crisis period, and grow up in the glow of success. In the case of the Boomers, they grew up at a time when America had beaten the Nazis and had beaten the Depression. The Prophets grow up into narcissistic adults who challenge the authority of their parents, the Heroes. In midlife they become moralistic, and end up as the wise elders leading the society into a new crisis period.
The Nomad Generation. These people grow up in the shadow the Prophets, and don't get along with them very well. They become alienated young adults, with a high incidence of crime and drug abuse, but mellow into pragmatic midlife leaders during a crisis period.
An impasse over the federal budget reaches a stalemate.
The president and Congress both refuse to back down, triggering a near-total government shutdown.
The president declares emergency powers.
Congress rescinds his authority.
Dollar and bond prices plummet.
The president threatens to stop Social Security checks.
Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling.
Wall Street panics.
The Fourth Turning could mark the end of modernity. The Western saecular rhythm—which began in the mid-fifteenth century with the Renaissance—could come to an abrupt terminus. The seventh modern saeculum would be the last. This too could come from total war, terrible but not final. There could be a complete collapse of science, culture, politics, and society. The “Western Civilization” of Toynbee and the “Faustian Culture” of Spengler would come to the inexorable close their prophesiers foresaw. A new dark ages would settle in, until some new civilization could be cobbled together from the ruins. The cycle of generations would also end, replaced by an ancient cycle of tradition (and fixed social roles for each phase of life) that would not allow progress. As with an omnicide, such a dire result would probably happen only when a dominant nation (like today’s America) lets a Fourth Turning ekpyrosis engulf the planet. But this outcome is well within the reach of foreseeable technology and malevolence.