I first read the book The Fourth Turning in 2019. I was struck by compelling evidence that describes the cycles of history, each lasting the length of human life. The cycle is made up of four turnings, each 20–25 years in duration. First comes a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order takes root after the old has been swept away. Next comes an Awakening, a time of spiritual exploration and rebellion against the now-established order. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era in which individualism triumphs over crumbling institutions. Last comes a Crisis-the Fourth Turning — when society passes through a great and perilous gate in history. Together, the four turnings comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and rebirth.
Books such as this provide a richness of historical perspective. In 2022, I followed up my original book post with a relook at the book’s key messages. I was driven to do so because my discussions involving the book were fascinating. That new post became my most viewed post — and every day, more people are drawn to the message. The book was written in 1997 by two generational scientists; Neil Howe and William Strauss. In it, the authors predicted that the crisis stage of the current cycle would begin around 2005. That book so compelled its readers that Neil Howe (William Strauss passed away) followed it up with a sequel that was just launched. The Fourth Turning is Here was published on July 18, 2023. In it, the author covers many aspects of the cycles of history. Readers of my blog know that I am a firm believer in the lessons of history and how instructive they are as we look into the future.
I described the current cycle when I posted about the first book. The cycle has progressed as follows:
HIGH: The First Turning was the American High of the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy presidencies.
AWAKENING: The Second Turning was the Consciousness Revolution, stretching from the campus revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s.
UNRAVELING: The Third Turning has been the Culture Wars, an era that began with Reagan’s mid-1980s Morning in America and is due to expire around the mid-2000s, eight or ten years from now.
CRISIS: In 1997, the book predicted that the crisis period would begin in 2005. Each turning lasts about 20 years, placing the end of the cycle near 2025, or sometime during this decade. This Fourth Turning is a crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.
In the recent book, the author has revised his projection for the resolution to the current crisis period. For a number of reasons, the cycle reduced in length during the centuries and has now returned to a longer cycle. Neil Howe projects the end of the crisis cycle in 2033, thereby ushering the new cycle beginning with a high. He theorizes on how the crisis will end, once again using history as a guide. I won’t spoil the plot here, but of all the books I have recommended over the years — this is a must read. If for nothing else, our current world looks eerily similar to the cycle that culminated with World War II. Something I explored at length in a previous post. I have added the book to my book library.