Book of the Month April 2022 ‘The Fourth Turning’

By William Strauss and Neil Howe

How are the next 10 years likely to play out in terms of global and regional changes, politically, socially, spiritually and economically?

This book DOES attempt to predict the future based on understanding the patterns of the past and as the book was written over 25 years ago, you can judge for yourself how accurate it is 25 plus years on.  In my opinion the books 1996 assessment is more than 80 percent accurate.  Interestingly this book is in Elon Musk’s Top 10 books to read, no doubt he found it useful in what he has been doing since the mid-1990s!

A wiseman once said to me “The most significant ability a business leader could have is to ‘predict challenges before they become real’!” Steve Linder (Neuro Strategist)
How important to you could it be to understand the general direction of economics, politics and social changes from any given point in time?
How important to you could it be to understand the general direction of economics, politics and social changes from any given point in time?  

Post the Covid 19 pandemic there is heightened uncertainty about the future, which is why I reviewed another great book of the same theme, in January this year ‘Principles for Dealing with The New World Order’ by Ray Dalio (https://www.certainprogress.com/book-of-the-month-january-2022-principles-for-dealing-with-the-changing-world-order).  In this book about historical and future cycles of change, the author sets out his understanding of historical cycles that enabled him to become arguably the most successful hedge fund manager in history.

Likewise, this book ‘The Fourth Turning’ breaks down the human social, political and economic patterns of history such that we can see what is most likely to be coming next.

The Book first establishes  

1. The Seasons of Time

2. The Seasons of Life

3. The Cycles of History

From these seasons and cycles emerge ‘The Four Turnings’ which could be described as ‘history’s seasonal rhythms.’

They are:

1- Growth – Like the Spring season 
2- Maturation – Like the Summer season
3- Entropy – Like the Autumn season
4- Destruction – Like the Winter season

The 4 Archetypes

The authors identify repeating generational cycles with predictable patterns. All major historical events can be linked with a on-going series of four human archetypes identified as 

1.Prophets

(Most recently these are the Baby Boomers) Prophets are idealists, precocious and rebellious towards big institutions. They believe in the freedom of self-expression, self -autonomy.  

2. Nomads

(Most recently these are Generation X – born in 1980s and 1990s) 

Nomads emerge as young adults who feel like outsiders who distrust institutions and value individualism above conformity. 

3. Heroes

(Most recently these are Millennials)

These are team orientated young people who emerge from the failing institutional systems with a strong desire to re-build. 

4. Artists

(The children being born now- Generation Z / Homelanders)
These children come of age in ‘a High’ during which time institutions are strong and individualism is weaker, hence they are conformists. 

Each archetype generation changes in 20 to 25 year cycles, as each archetype comes to prominence they dominate the direction of that era which the authors call ‘the turning’.

As each new archetype comes to prominence it transforms the social, political, and economic climates. With each new archetypal emergence comes a new turning. These turnings bring with them a whole bunch of pendulum swings socially, politically and economically ‘toing and froing’ from ‘disciplined to liberal’ ‘left wing to right wing’ ‘boom to bust’ etc.  

THE 4 TURNINGS – A quick summary explanation
1- A HIGH (The 1st Turning)

Example: in the USA the Truman to Kennedy era. This is a period of expansion where the old world order is swept away and progressively greater economic growth is experienced.
2- AN AWAKENING (The 2nd Turning)

Example: The awakening consciousness high of the 1960 to 1980s, greater equality, space exploration and anti-war demonstrations.  
3- AN UNRAVELLING (The 3rd Turning)
The culture years. National drift and unconstitutional decay. It becomes more and more apparent that ‘established systems and ways of doing things’ are no longer fit for purpose. Those in power continue to take more and more power until we reach the Fourth Turning. 
4- A CRISIS (The 4th Turning)

A crisis usually culminates in anything from a huge rebellion against the ‘Old World Order’ and more often it leads to a war from which a ‘New World Order’ emerges. After a period of hardship, a new era of growth and optimism emerges, leading back to the next level 1stTurning and so the cycle repeats!

A Saeculum

With these 18 to 25 year shifts from one turning to the next the entire 4 turning cycles take around 80 to 90 years, this is known as ‘a Saeculum’ and equates to roughly one human lifespan. The end of the second world war was the exit from the last crisis and took us into the 2nd turning ‘an awakening’ through the 1940’s to early 1960s and so on. 

2 great historical wars which you would assume equate to ‘A Crisis’ do not quite fit into the global ‘turning cycles’, these are the ‘American Civil war’ which the authors consider to be a ‘regional blip to the ‘turning patterns’ and the implication is that the Great War known as ‘World War One’ was also a regional variation as in reality it was predominantly ‘a European war’. Physically violent wars involving the use of physical weapons are not the only aspect of conflicts in ‘A Crisis’ it can also include trade wars and less violent rebellions and coups. 

Where are we now?

As you read the book it is human nature to have the question ‘Where in the turnings are we now?’ The obvious answer is that we are in the beginning of the Fourth Turning now, which means at worst a war is coming, at best a global revolution of some description. Obviously, the war in Ukraine is not yet a ‘global war’, but where we are now is effectively only the first chapter of The Fourth Turning. 
What is worth noting is that the current ‘Old World Order’ who have controlled big business, banks, media and governments for decades are simply trying to re-brand themselves as ‘The New World Order’ aka the World Economic Forum et al. So if The Fourth Turning theory proves to be correct after a great conflict the ‘Old World Order’ who include most of the current world political and business leaders will be toppled and replaced by something very different. As a wise man once said to me “No matter how much a zebra thinks it is a tiger and says it is a tiger, if it tries to hang out with the tigers, they will eat it.”  

As I recommend this book, I would say again that you should bear in mind that it was written back in 1996 and the prophetic accuracy of the cycles it identifies are undeniably accurate and relevant.