The Fourth Turning
by William Strauss and Neil Howe

Overview - This astonishing book will change the way you see the world--and your place in it. With startling originality, The Fourth Turning illuminates the past, explains the present, and reimagines the future. Most remarkably, it offers an utterly persuasive prophecy about a new American era that will begin just after the millennium.  Read more...


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More About The Fourth Turning by William Strauss; Neil Howe

This astonishing book will change the way you see the world--and your place in it. With startling originality, The Fourth Turning illuminates the past, explains the present, and reimagines the future. Most remarkably, it offers an utterly persuasive prophecy about a new American era that will begin just after the millennium.

William Strauss and Neil Howe base this vision on a provocative new theory of American history. With the same intellectual audacity that animated their previous best-sellers, Generations and 13th-GEN, the authors look back five hundred years and uncover a distinct pattern: Modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting about the length of a long human life, each composed of four eras--or "turnings"--that last about twenty years and that always arrive in the same order. 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.

Strauss and Howe locate today's America as midway through an Unraveling, roughly a decade away from the next era of Crisis. In a brilliant analysis of the post-World War II period, they show how generational dynamics are the key to understanding the cycles of American history. They draw vivid portraits of all the modern generations: the can-do G.I.s, the mediating Silent, the values-absorbed Boomers, the pragmatic 13ers, and the child Millennials. Placed in the context of history's long rhythms, the persona and role of each generation become clear--as does the inevitability of the coming Crisis.

By applying the lessons of history, The Fourth Turning makes some bold and hopeful predictions about America's next rendezvous with destiny. It also shows us how we can prepare for what's ahead, both individually and as a nation. As Future Shock did in the 1970s and Megatrends did in the 1980s, this groundbreaking book will have a profound effect on every reader's perception of where we've been and where we're going.

From the Hardcover edition.

  • Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
  • Date: Dec 1996

From the book


America feels like it's unraveling.

Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have sunk into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.

Neither an epic victory over Communism nor an extended upswing of the business cycle can buoy our civic spirit. The Cold War and New Deal struggles are plainly over, but we are of no mind to bask in their successes. The America of today feels worse, in its fundamentals, than the one many of us remember from youth, a society presided over by those of supposedly lesser consciousness. Wherever we look, from L.A. to D.C., from Oklahoma City to Sun City, we see paths to a foreboding future. We perceive no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves. Small wonder that each new election brings a new jolt, its aftermath a new disappointment.

Not long ago, America was more than the sum of its parts. Now, it is less. Around World War II, we were proud as a people but modest as individuals. Fewer than two people in ten said yes when asked "Are you a very important person?" Today, more than six in ten say yes to that question. Where we once thought ourselves collectively strong, we now regard ourselves as individually entitled.

Yet even while we exalt our own personal growth, we realize that millions of self-actualized persons don't add up to an actualized society. Popular trust in virtually every American institution--from businesses and governments to churches and newspapers--keeps falling to new lows. Public debts soar, the middle class shrinks, welfare dependencies deepen, and cultural wars worsen by the year. We now have the highest incarceration rate, and the lowest eligible-voter participation rates, of any major democracy. Statistics inform us that many adverse trends (crime, divorce, abortion, scholastic aptitudes) may have bottomed out, but we're not reassured.

Optimism still attaches to self, but no longer to family or community. Most Americans express more hope for their own prospects than for their children's--or the nation's. Parents widely fear that the American Dream, which was there (solidly) for their parents and still there (barely) for them, will not be there for their kids. Young householders are reaching their mid-thirties never having known a time when America seemed to be on the right track. Middle-aged people look at their thin savings accounts and slim-to-none pensions, scoff at an illusory Social Security trust fund, and try not to dwell on what a burden their old age could become. Seniors separate into their own Leisure World, recoiling at the lost virtue of youth while trying not to think about the future.

We perceive our civic challenge as some vast, insoluble Rubik's Cube. Behind each problem lies another problem that must be solved first, and behind that lies yet another, and another, ad infinitum. To fix crime we have to fix the family, but before we do that we have to fix welfare, and that means fixing our budget, and that means fixing our civic spirit, but we can't do that without fixing moral standards, and that means fixing schools and churches, and that means fixing the inner cities, and that's impossible unless we fix crime. There's no fulcrum on which to rest a policy lever. People of all ages sense that something huge will have to sweep across America before the gloom can be lifted but that's an awareness we suppress. As a nation, we're in deep denial.

While we grope for answers, we wonder if analysis may be crowding out our intuition. Like the anxious patient who takes 17 kinds of medicine while poring over his own CAT scan, we...


Praise for Generations:
"Generations is the most stimulating book on American history I have ever read." - Senator Al Gore

"Generations is a brilliant intellectual tour de force." - Speaker Newt Gingrich

"Generations might change the world as much as Darwin's Origin of Species." - Oakland Tribune

"A provocative, erudite, and engaging analysis of the rhythms of American life." - Newsweek

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