The Millennial Generation
(1946 – 2026?)
The “Prophets” Speak
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In our last post Strauss and Howe (with The Fourth Turning¹) introduced us to saeculum, a unit of time equal to about 80 to 100 years. In these were “4 turnings” of approximately 20+ years. Seven were cited, running from 1435 to 2026, each with 4 turnings: (1) a collectively societal high, (2) an awakening, (3) an unraveling, and (4) a crisis respectively. [Now remember, as indicated below, this book was written in 1997.] According to their identifying and prognosticating acumen, here’s our recent past…and our present, and future.
The 7th, last saeculum that we’re in (1946-2026?) has these 4 parts:
(1) In the American “high” of the First Turning were the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy presidencies. “As World War II wound down, no one predicted that America would soon become so confident and institutionally muscular, yet so conformist and spiritually complacent. But that’s what happened.”
(2) “The Second Turning was the Consciousness Revolution [awakening], stretching from the campus revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s. Before John Kennedy was assassinated, no one predicted that America was about to enter an era of personal liberation and cross a cultural divide that would separate anything thought or said after from anything thought or said before. But that’s what happened.”
(3) “The Third Turning has been the Culture Wars [unraveling], an era that began with Reagan’s mid-1980s Morning in America and is due to expire around the middle of the Oh-Oh decade, about eight or ten years from now². Amid the glitz of the early Reagan years, no one predicted that the nation was entering an era of national drift and institutional decay. But that’s where we are.”
Has our country had such cycles like these before? Yes, according to Strauss and Howe, citing the 6 previous saecula that follow the same pattern, but I’ll spare you the detail. [FLASH: Our editor without portfolio who lives halfway around the world from our home base reports (6-10-14) another interesting book (after reading our last post) that seems concordant with S & H’s repeating cycles in history. See Note 3 below.]
Wait! what about the missing “Fourth Turning” here? Well, it’s missing! Remember, this book was written in 1997, so all the authors could do was take us to the middle of #3. It’s the Fourth Turning we’re in now–that time of crisis were new values replace the old civic order. This is the turning that provides the jolt to shake things up–that is, if Strauss and Howe are on target! And things certainly seem prophetic so far. We’ll look at attitudes and postures that are wise to assume in our next post.
¹ William Strauss and Neil Howe, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy (What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. (Broadway Books, 1997). This riveting, though detailed, book (382pp.) thematically examines 7 cycles of generations and “turnings” in terms of the criteria given here: (1) Late Medieval (1435-1487; (2) Reformation (1487-1594); (3) New World (1594-1704); (4) Revolutionary (1704-1794); (5) Civil War (1794-1865); (6) Great Power (1865-1946; and (7) Millennial (1946-2026?).
² Remember, our source was written before the “Oh-Oh decade”! (That was a common way in the last century of referring to “2001 – 2009” of the present one. Whether the 10th year was “2000” or “2010” is unclear. Go figure…)
³ Taken from the Amazon book description of The Kondratiev Cycle: A Generational Interpretation (2002) : “Michael [A.] Alexander extends his analysis of cycles in the stock market to the last seven centuries of Western social, political and economic history. Alexander presents a series of conceptual models for the Kondratiev economic cycle over time and shows how they describe the interaction between economic, social and political cycles. Emphasis is placed on careful empirical demonstration of the reality of these cycles. Alexander then weaves these cycles together showing that they are deeply related to yet another cycle, the generational cycle identified by William Strauss and Neil Howe.This synthesis is used to project political and economic trends over the next twenty years.”