Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Fourth Turning


The Fourth Turning is a theory of history and social cycles proposed by Strauss and Howe in their 1997 book. The theory proposes that American history can be divided into four ‘turnings’, or eras, each lasting atound 20 - 25 years, which repeat in a cyclical pattern. Each turning, represented by the seasons, are characterised by different moods and events, with the fourth turning, Winter, being a time of crisis and upheaval.

These much discussed and debated theories tend to polarise opinion between usefulness and scepticism. From an academic standpoint, the theory comes across more as a pre-determined viewpoint in search of a popourri of random facts. 

However, as a writer, I was interested in the authors’ use of human archetypes to define the four different generations within the ‘saeculum’, the prophet, nomad, hero and artist. They applied archetypes to generations over past saeculums dating back to 1500, and argued the cycles were eerily similar from an archetypal perspective, offering a predictive process for future cycles.

Overall, The Fourth Turning provides another predictive pattern that could be layered on to more complex patterns used by historians to make sense out of cultural evolution, more particularly, generational change.outthink Turning