I started reading The Fourth Turning last night after I discovered that there was a copy of the book online a few days ago:
“In fact, at the core of modern history lies this remarkable pattern: Over the past five centuries, Anglo-American society has entered a new era—a new turning —every two decades or so. At the start of each turning, people change how they feel about themselves, the culture, the nation, and the future. Turnings come in cycles of four. Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years, a unit of time the ancients called the saeculum. Together, the four turnings of the saeculum comprise history’s seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction …”
This is a bold thesis.
History bends because social moods change. It happens naturally happens every twenty to thirty years. The root cause is the aging of generations going through the natural cycle of life: childhood, young adulthood, mid-life and elderhood. Every generation gets its turn at the wheel.
In the near future, the Silent Generation will die, the Boomers will retire, the Gen Xers will become elders, the Millennials will enter mid-life and Generation Z will enter young adulthood. Post-Boomer America is inevitable. We know the transition will happen in the 2020s. The sudden decline of the Boomers will be one of the most highly impactful developments of this decade.
As a Xennial who was born in 1980, I am turning 40 this year. I am entering mid-life. I don’t feel like a young adult anymore. I am now fully in dad mode. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life speaking out against the decline of this country, but to no avail. It has been a period of relentless decline.
- The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.
- The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.
- The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
- The 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.
If this theory is true, it explains a lot.
The people who have been in control of America since the 1990s are the Baby Boomers. They have been in control of America for my entire adult life. Their worldview and values were shaped by the Thirty Glorious Years when they were young adults in the 1960s and 1970s.
The character and values of every generation is sealed by young adulthood. For the Baby Boomers, it was the Consciousness Revolution or the twenty years between 1965 and 1985. It permanently stamped and divided them and arguing with them about it is about as useless as trying to reason with an elephant. This was the most important and defining epoch of their lives. In much the same way, those of us who entered young adulthood in the George W. Bush era were defined by the 2000s and 2010s.
What has been our life experience? Iraq. The Crash of 2008. Endless culture war. Government paralysis. The browning of America. Political correctness. Student loan debt. For the vast majority of us, being broke and family turmoil and being the first generation in history worse off than our parents. The future will not be a perpetual extension of the recent past for the simple reason of generational turnover.
“Each turning comes with its own identifiable mood. Always, these mood shifts catch people by surprise. …”
As someone who is 39 years old, I don’t remember the previous turnings of the mid-1980s when Reagan was president when I was a toddler or the mid-1960s before I was born. My grandparents remembered a different country going all the way back to the Great Depression.
“During each of these previous Third Turnings, Americans felt as if they were drifting toward a cataclysm.
And, as it turned out, they were.”
I suppose we will see.
I’ve certainly felt that way.
“The 1760s were followed by the American Revolution, the 1850s by Civil War, the 1920s by the Great Depression and World War II. All these Unraveling eras were followed by bone-jarring Crises so monumental that, by their end, American society emerged in a wholly new form.
Each time, the change came with scant warning. As late as December 1773, November 1859, and October 1929, the American people had no idea how close it was. Then sudden sparks (the Boston Tea Party, John Brown’s raid and execution, Black Tuesday) transformed the public mood, swiftly and permanently. Over the next two decades or so, society convulsed. …”
This is one of the most interesting facts about the Antebellum era.
The Southern secessionists had been stymied for decades by conservatives. They had failed to create a mass movement. Instead, the radicals like Robert Barnwell Rhett were marginalized. Rhett was retired when secession finally came in South Carolina in late 1860. It was sparked by the John Brown raid and the election of Lincoln as president. The public mood in the South radically shifted in the span of just one year. The men who ultimately led the Confederacy were Southern establishment conservatives like Jefferson Davis. Alexander Stephens opposed secession in Georgia until the end.
Similarly, the events of the 1930s and 1940s were not perceived from the perspective of the 1920s. America chose not to join the League of Nations and settled into a frivolous, nihilistic and dissolute era which ended in the Great Depression. Strangely, the cultural dissolution of the Roaring Twenties took place alongside the great utopian puritanical moral crusade of that era, which hit its climax in the 1920s, Prohibition. In the 1850s, the great moral crusade had been abolitionism. In our times, it is antiracism. In all three eras, the sinner (the “slaver,” the “wet” or the “racist”) has been the object of repressive witch hunts.
What is antiracism but an even more extreme and ridiculous form of Prohibition? In this case, the prohibition of White identity. Whiteness is the “sin” that has to be stamped out. “Racists” are people who are driven underground by society. This website is not unlike a speakeasy where people are free to relax, speak their minds and dissent from the stifling political correctness of mainstream culture. Prohibition was the great moral crusade of the Missionary Generation which was born from 1860 to 1882 in the wake of the Civil War. They were the Baby Boomers of their time. The Transcendental Generation born between 1792 and 1821 in the wake of the American Revolution were the Baby Boomers of their time.
“The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.”
As the theory goes, the Boomer (Prophet) archetype eternally recurs throughout American history. The moralizing Baby Boomers are destined to unwittingly plunge America into a great crisis. Then the next generation of Boomers will be born after the crisis. The children of Millennials and Generation Z.
“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort—in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it. In the Civil War, the two capital cities would surely have incinerated each other had the means been at hand. In World War II, America invented a new technology of annihilation, which the nation swiftly put to use. This time, America will enter a Fourth Turning with the means to inflict unimaginable horrors and, perhaps, will confront adversaries who possess the same.”
If the theory is true, a period of decadence can only be followed by a period of sweeping destruction and the Boomers will destroy America. In the process, America will be renewed and we will move into a new cycle. In light of current events, which strangely have their own force, it has been on my mind. Perhaps it is just my anxiety and vertigo though watching a world that appears to be spiraling out of control?
Millennials are burning shit down. Boomers, however, are sanctioning the demise of public order. Fearful Gen Xers are watching it happen. No one seems to know why they are doing what they are doing although reasons are given. “Systemic racism.” “George Floyd.” It is like they are possessed.
This will not end well.
Note: Expect more brooding posts in this vein.
I need to print all of this shit off before it is too late. Maybe one day it will be of some value to future historians in explaining how the crisis came.