THE FOURTH TURNING by William Strauss


An American Prophecy
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Creative and provocative analysis suggesting troubling implications make this book a must-read. Strauss and Howe (Generations, 1991, etc.) reject the modern, linear conception of history that comforts believers in eternal progress and adopt an older, cyclical perspective. They divide time into 80100 year cycles termed ``saeculums,'' which consist of four 2025 year ``turnings.'' In the ``High'' turning civic order is reinforced; in the ``Awakening'' it is questioned; in the ``Unraveling'' personal interests are pursued; in the ``Crisis'' public authority is resurrected in response to internal and external challenges. Each phase of the saeculum produces a generation with distinctive qualities captured in four archetypes: ``Heroes'' are selfless and unreflective, ``Artists'' caring and sentimental, ``Prophets'' principled and narcissistic, ``Nomads'' savvy and unfeeling. All four are present in every society but play different roles in different turnings. With these basic elements Strauss and Howe lay out their cyclical version of Western history and pull together a tremendous amount of material in a series of tables. The bottom line for contemporary Americans is that, after a second turning (the ``Consciousness Revolution'') that ended around 1984, we are now in a third turning (``Culture Wars'') that will end around 2005. The crisis of the fourth turning lies in the near future--not a pleasant thought given that the last one featured the Great Depression and WW II. While not everyone will follow the authors' injunction to start preparing now, even those who dismiss cycle theories will find much food for thought. Some of the insights into generational relations are startling: How many people have recognized, for example, that the Reagan-era infatuation with self-interest represents a maturing of the ``me generation'' attitudes of the '60s? Strauss and Howe use an amazing knowledge of popular culture to remain entertaining throughout, despite the heavy subject matter, and produce a metahistory to ponder as we approach the new millennium. (First serial to USA Weekend; $100,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1997
ISBN: 0-553-06682-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997


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