Have we entered a
September 15, 2001 5:25 AM   Subscribe

Have we entered a Neil Howe and William Strauss have written a series of books (really, the same book rehashed three times, but who's counting?) on generational cycles. Their theory is that we are due for a "fourth turning" in the first part of the 21st century: a catalyst event that causes an extreme change in public mood, causing us to go through a decade or two of crisis. For example, the 1929 stock market crash was a catalyst, and the Depression and WWII were the time of crisis. Was 9/11 such a catalyst?
posted by litlnemo (15 comments total)
Of course, the additional question is whether Strauss and Howe are full of crap, anyway -- but I do think that their theories are interesting reading, even when they are way off-base. Incidentally, their books I referred to above are -- Generations, 13th Gen, and The Fourth Turning.
posted by litlnemo at 5:31 AM on September 15, 2001

more Nostradamus....?
posted by Postroad at 5:46 AM on September 15, 2001

At least Strauss/Howe are alive and willing to post on their message board about it! Can't say that much for Nostradamus. ;)
posted by litlnemo at 5:51 AM on September 15, 2001

Sounds like watered-down Vico to me. And while I think that there's some merit to the theory of corsi and ricorsi, instant historicism is crap.

Each cycle has four "turnings"-a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling, and a Crisis.

Yep, watered-down Vico: age of gods, age of heroes, age of men, age of confusion.
posted by holgate at 6:14 AM on September 15, 2001

According to Fractal Time Wave Compression Analysis, we're about right on target.
posted by mb01 at 6:23 AM on September 15, 2001

From mb01's link:

Major Points in Linear Time Designating Structure-Breaking Event Horizons: 2/96,9/97,6/98,10/98,9/99,1/2000,9/2001,10/2001,5/2003,10/2003,5/2004,10/2005,4/2007,2/2008,11/2008, 9/2010, and 3/2011

Good God that's scary. Nostradamus didn't give dates.
posted by Sinner at 6:49 AM on September 15, 2001

Have you checked those past dates for any "Structure-Breaking Events"?
posted by elfgirl at 6:58 AM on September 15, 2001

According to Fractal Time Wave Compression Analysis...

Um, okay, I'm convinced.
posted by rushmc at 7:20 AM on September 15, 2001

Hey, enough with the snickering. These guys aren't playing with goat entrails.

Strauss and Howe actually have a lot of interesting things to say, even if it's sometimes straitjacketed into their overall theory. There are generational differences between Boomers, GenXers, and young people today. Those are often expressed in our politics, our leadership, our economy. That's useful stuff. As to whether we can reliabily predict a massing "turning" -- well, I wouldn't be at all surprised if an event of this magnitude led to a grand change in the political and cultural landscape. It's happened before.
posted by dhartung at 7:48 AM on September 15, 2001

I read these guys book "generations" a while back and was briefly entranced by it. I came to realize however that these guys were much too in love with their own concept. Even in their WTC post we find sentences such as "And are most Boomers any more ready than the President to leave the shadow of their Silent mentors and assume the Gray Champion mantle? "

Riiiight, the Gray Champion and the Silent mentors.
posted by jeremias at 7:51 AM on September 15, 2001

Analysis of Timewave Theory, sprung from the truly novel mind of the late Terence McKenna.
posted by lock at 8:02 AM on September 15, 2001

"Have we entered a 'Fourth Turning'?"

Only the Shadow knows..... :D
posted by metrocake at 8:12 AM on September 15, 2001

What does the Time Cube have to teach us about this?
posted by darukaru at 8:37 AM on September 15, 2001

re:time cube

You know, big fonts always convince me. Damn, 18 pt! must be true.
posted by christina at 10:05 AM on September 15, 2001

There's only one prediction you can ever make with absolute certainty: Every overarching prediction anyone else makes will turn out to be wrong. And Strauss and Howe have made some extremely overarching predictions in their time. For one, anyone that took their word as gospel could never have comprehended how twentysomethings created the dotcom bubble. (They sure wouldn't have any trouble beliving the post-bubble moroseness, though.)

And I don't yet see any reason why the events of this past week will necessarily cause some massive, permanent change in the national Zeitgeist. Plenty of people made the same claims about The World Being Forever Changed after the Gulf War and after OKC. Yet in the end, nothing happened. We simply filed the events away into history and went on with our lives.
posted by aaron at 2:58 PM on September 15, 2001

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