When things start falling apart
in the “4th turning,” of this
what should we do
• as a country?
• as an individual?
The historians Strauss & Howe
For more use the DOOR.
As Strauss and Howe (in The Fourth Turning¹) describe a saeculum (a 4-step cycle of how history regulary repeats itself every 80 to 100 years), they predict that the “4th turning” that is now upon us in the present saeculum is driven by CRISIS–a crisis or series of crises that will be especially serious.
So what to do?
According to Strauss and Howe, here’s how we should focus our energy. Realize what we present below is selective rather than exhaustive.
(1) Prepare values: Forge a consensus and uplift the culture, but don’t expect near-term results.
Values will return, as always, and with a vengeance–but they will be new.
(2) Prepare institutions: Clear the debris and find out what works, but don’t try to build anything big.
(3) Prepare politics: Define challenges bluntly and stress duties over rights, but don’t attempt reforms that can’t now be accomplished.
(4) Prepare society: Require community teamwork to solve local problems, but don’t try this on a local scale.
(5) Prepare youth: Treat children as the nation’s highest priority, but don’t do their work for them.
“The outcome of the Fourth Turning may depend on the mettle of the generation then coming of age…raising youths who will do whatever is required.”
(6) Prepare elders: Tell future elders they will need to become more self-sufficient, but don’t attempt deep cuts in benefits to current elders.
“Not far into the Fourth Turning, today’s long-tern projections for Social Security, Medicare, and other elder benefits programs will lie in history’s dust bin….critical events will force the government to reshuffle all its spending priorities.”
(7) Prepare the economy: Correct fundamentals, but don’t try to fine tune current performance.
“Encourage high-tech innovation and competition…”
(8) Prepare the defense: Expect the worst and prepare to mobilize, but don’t precommit to any one response.
“America should gird itself for…possible war whose scale, cost, manpower, armaments, casualties, and homefront sacrifices far exceed anything the nation would tolerate now…”
“Picture yourself and your loved ones in a howling blizzard that lasts for several years…”
(1) Rectify: Return to the classic virtues.
(2) Converge: Heed emerging community norms.
“In a Fourth Turning, the nation’s core will matter more than its diversity. Team, brand, and standard will be new catchwords…”
(3) Bond: Build personal relationships of all kinds.
“Direct personal linkages will be newly valued…”
(4) Gather: Prepare yourself (and your children) for teamwork.
“Stress…more what you have in common with others…”
(5) Root: Look to your family for support.
(6) Brace: Gird for the weakening or collapse of public support mechanisms.
“…government supply of benefits could erode sharply. Youth, not age, will be the target of civic action and reward…”
“…discount U.S. government promises [about any promised benefits which] could turn out to be no more reliable than earlier promises about Continental and Confederate dollars…”
(7) Hedge: Diversify everything you do.
“Generalists with survival know-how will have the edge over specialists whose skills are useful only in an undamaged environment…”
“Once the crisis catalyzes, anything can happen…”
“Expect public subsidies to vanish…”
“Be fluent in as many languages, cultures, and technologies as you can…”
“…risk of the Great Devaluation.”
The comments here are few and only scratch the surface. Strauss and Howe offer so much more. Good principles and attitudes, as well as perseverance and commitment are sometimes more helpful than mountains of details that are off target.
Of the 7 (80- to 100-year long) saecula (described 2 posts earlier) the 4th and final (20+yr.) segment always ends with crisis. We’re in the middle of that segment now.
This is good book for some, but with our rapid-paced society it may seem a bit dated. However, it’s eerie that what was said in 1997 seems to fit so well to circumstances today.
[I think that with my next post I’ll add a bit more just discovered info…]
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?). In this post we’re exploring the 4th turning of the Millennial saeculum. This is the 3rd and final post on this book. [But note my last sentence above…]