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The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us about America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,645 ratings  ·  414 reviews
NATIONAL BESTSELLER - "A startling vision of what the cycles of history predict for the future."--USA Weekend

William Strauss and Neil Howe will change the way you see the world--and your place in it. With blazing originality, The Fourth Turning illuminates the past, explains the present, and reimagines the future. Most remarkably, it offers an utterly persuasive prophecy
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 29th 1997 by Three Rivers Press (CA) (first published December 1st 1996)
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Lucydad Read first five chapters. Well, the authors in my opinion are vastly over-simplifying human culture and history. They are imposing pre-conceived patt…more Read first five chapters. Well, the authors in my opinion are vastly over-simplifying human culture and history. They are imposing pre-conceived patterns where reality is a mix of chaos, linear systems and very complex cycles on cycles. Smell of political-conservative agendas also, and dated. Lots of cherry picking of questionable evidence. Were they paid by the word? Drawn out repetitive arguments. I will finish it, given that its good to think about various social theories. LOL, ripped that one, didn't I? I call them as I see them. Strike out. Next batter(less)

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Maru Kun
Feb 02, 2017 marked it as not-to-read
If you want to give your self a fright then read this article on the pseudo-history of Strauss-Howe Generational Theory, then read this book and finally reflect on the fact that, as reported in Time Magazine, it is one of the favorite works of Steve Bannon as it forms the basis of these beliefs:
Bannon noted repeatedly on his radio show that "we're at war" with radical jihadis in places around the world. This is "a global existential war" that likely will become "a major shooting war in the M
Feb 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011-reads
The Fourth Turning explains a theoretical approach to history - a cyclical system of societal high, awakening, unraveling and crisis. Each period has a corresponding stereotype: prophet, nomad, hero and artist. The time period for a cycle is the course of a generation, deemed a saeculum. Each of the four periods in a saeculum lasts between 17 to 29 years. The authors piece together historical events to fit their theory. The only abnormality (that they acknowledge) is the U.S. civil war. I did no ...more
Feb 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wow! I could totally see why Obama won the election after reading this--and why McCain did not. This is an amazing book on the patterns of history--and, as it was written 10 years ago, a dead-on prediction of the last 10 years. After reading it, I'm preparing for another crisis in the next 5 years. (I personally think the next American Crisis is going to be a cultural civil war--we'll see!)
Aug 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first quarter of this book is junk. It's a review of moldy pseudoscience about theories of four - four humours, four elements, four seasons, four temperaments, four phases of life. It has little or nothing to do with the central premise that there is a four generation cycle of behavior in Angle-American society - all you have to do to justify the length of this cycle to me is to point out that the normal death from old age occurs about four generations after birth. After the authors finish w ...more
Christy Peterson
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
There is so much corruption that I am looking forward to this next crisis. This attitude is predicted on page 257. Do I realize what I am actually saying? Maybe.

I give it 5 stars for introducing a new paradigm that understands history as cyclic, not linear. I loved the hero cycle described in the archetype and am going to read Hero With a Thousand Faces soon. I was fascinated at how wars turn out and are remembered in history when they aren’t 4th Turning wars. The Civil War and was a fascinatin
Bryan Alexander
It’s important for futurists to examine flawed futuring work and learn from it. I’ve said this before, reflecting on my own forecasting misfires. I haven’t offered many criticisms of others’ work, largely for reasons of time. I’d like to start doing some more of this.

Why? There are all kinds of benefits to this kind of analysis. One involves testing the limits of a given method (Delphi, trends extrapolation, etc.) by seeing what it misses… which then suggests how one can either modify the method
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-depth
Four Turnings, or types of large events, have recurred throughout history, especially American history and its immediate antecedents in England. The first is a High period where things are going very well, the second is a spiritual Awakening, the third is an ugly period of decline or Unraveling, and the fourth is a Crisis. Strauss and Howe prove this case over and over and over again in their book. (It took me a while to get through all the analysis.)

Need extra motivation to read this book, or j
Lisa Reads & Reviews
Feb 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
I'll give 2 or 3 reasons why this book should be read and trashed by everyone. First, it is only a hypothesis, not a theory because the premise has not been generally accepted. Despite that, consultants and speakers are perpetuating the ideas and sparking groups of true believers who adhere to it like a new religion, on faith instead of sound research or discourse. Steve Bannon, self proclaimed Leninist and adviser to SCPOTUS Trump is a prominent proponent of the Strauss–Howe generational hypoth ...more
Celeste Batchelor
UPDATE: Re-reading this one as part of a study group. I'm excited to STUDY this one deeper.

This was a necessary, but a tough read. I recommend it even though I only gave it three stars. I learned a great deal from this book, I just wish it was explained in more layman's terms. At times I felt angry and even stopped reading the book for a few days to clear my head of hurt feelings when reading of my Boomer generation parents and how they parented. I did find these generalizations to be true for
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, sociology
Strauss and Howe make a strong argument for studying time cyclically. Not only does a definite pattern of seasons of growth and decay emerge over the centuries, but generations are formed determined by their relation in time to historical events. For example, generations who come of age during a crisis take on a hero role as they march in step to the orders of their elders and save the day. The authors claim, "When history is viewed as seasonal . . . each generation can discover its own path acr ...more
Beth A.
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Beth A. by: Laura
Shelves: nonfiction, political
A slow read, but interesting and thought provoking. It’s an attempt to predict the future in a fairly general way based on patterns in history and repeating generational traits. It’s an intriguing idea that as a generation our personalities may be formed- by the parenting and actions of our elders- in such a way that our traits can be traced back and predicted forward in rotating patterns that cause historical and current events to adhere to similar patterns. This theory seemed to make sense to ...more
Oct 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Back in 2008, I read The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe. I just came across a review (more like a synopsis) that I had put on LiveJournal at the time, so I figured I might as well post it here:

First, let the record show that "Everybody Knows" was originally written and recorded by Leonard Cohen, and to attribute the lyrics to Concrete Blonde demonstrates some willful fucking ignorance.

Second, did you know that Generation X was "the most-aborted generation in U.S. history"?

I don'
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
I am a sucker for a grand narrative of history. My gut (in the Stephen Colbert's sense) loves this book. It puts together a lot of my experience into a nice tidy picture into a map of future and the past. It is a bold thesis and an old idea of the cyclical nature of the ages. My gut screams yes! Alas, my head mumbles "wait a second do I buy this?"
Is there really four season lasting twenty or twenty-five years for and 80 to 100 year age which is marked by a cataclysm? Are we really heading for a
Jon Stout
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the hopeful and the heroic
Recommended to Jon by: Sandye Wilson
Two factors drew me to this book. First was much discussion among my friends, including at my church, of how to work with and appeal to Millennials. Second was the news item that Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s theoretician, was much influenced by Strauss and Howe’s work. Taken together, these two incentives were too much to pass up. I was happy to launch into an interesting discussion of American generations, as they have defined themselves over my lifetime.

Strauss and Howe’s thesis is that Americ
This is the best book I have read all year, in terms of how much it has changed my worldview. My wife has noticed that I am now seeing just about everything through the lens of generational cohorts, and in terms of the "fourth turning" we are now in as a society. The book was written by some liberal baby-boomers, but the basic premise (that we are heading toward a crisis) seems to fit with similar predictions from folks on the political right as well (such as Glenn Beck, who predicts global econ ...more
Nick Martin
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If the joy that a book brings (see also: life itself) is less about the what that happens and more about the experience of passing time in a particular way — guided by authors, invited to align our thinking as tourist-readers for a while with theirs as guides . . .

There is much that is speculative here. And conveniently grouped. And over-generalized. A skeptical reader will find opportunities abundant to jump off this train. I, however, treated it as meditation, and enjoyed the hell out of the r
Jun 25, 2020 rated it liked it
The theory explored in this book is interesting and seems obvious when you think about it. History is made up of generations, and kids grow up in reaction to their parents and society’s leaders. Wouldn’t that lend itself to a cycle?

Why is there a catastrophic event every hundred years or so that seems to remake society from its core? Could it have something to do with the generation, the pattern of who is in charge, who is a young adult, and the willingness of that generation to take action?

Charles J
Jan 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am almost ashamed to review this book. It is like reviewing "Fifty Shades of Grey"—the mere fact the someone publicly admits he has read it degrades both him and his listeners. My only defense is that Steve Bannon has repeatedly stated this book is a major influence on his thought. He’s a clever man. So I sought wisdom by following his lead, but instead, I got a rotten egg. While I still have a great deal of respect for Bannon, having read this book, the Respect-O-Meter has dropped by roughly ...more
Nov 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
I know you really liked this one, which is why I was a little concerned about posting my rating. First, I think I'm a stingier rater overall. Basically, I think of the Book of Mormon as my 5, so it is pretty hard for other books to stack up. Second, while there were several things I appreciated about the book, I disagreed with much of the "methodology" and reasoning.

I did appreciate the effort to take a broader view of history, and I do think that cycles play roles in history and in our lives t
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book for Gen Xers about the 2018-2022 crisis, written back in 1997. Saddest thing about this book is that it gave people 10 years to prepare their communities but nothing got done on that level.

Extremely overwritten, but then you get to the good bits:

After Y2K fails to bring societal transformation, “More people will start rooting for something big to happen, something bad enough to shock the society out of its civic ennui"

“Where G.I.s “ac-cent-tchu-ated the positive,” Boomers are constantly
Johanna Dolan
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am IN LOVE with this book!! It explains my Gen X angst. It explains what is happening right now in the USA. And it offers HOPE for what is coming next! Fantastic book - you HAVE to read it.
John Chamberlain
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Feeling annoyed, might delete later ;)

Our book, "The Fourth Turning" demonstrates history happens in cycles and all that has happened before will happen again.

"Ah, ok. I'm sympathetic to that. There's definitely some patterns to history."

Based on the emphasis and events of each generation parents will change the focus that they give children and subsequent generations will demonstrate certain behaviors.

"Cool, I've thought about that myself. Really overprotective/thrifty/spiritual parents that ha
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I discovered this book because the theory presented in it was mentioned in passing in an article that I read shortly after the recent election. The book is just about 20 years old at this point, but it feels extremely relevant to the current moment in history. It also feels surprisingly personal to me, speaking to ideas and yearnings I thought were just my own, but may in fact be generational in a way I have not recognized before.

As I've read it, I've found that I can't stop thinking about it an
Daniel Olshansky
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I listened to the audiobook and would rate the book a 3.5 / 5 (rounded down rather than up).

The primary reason I enjoyed this book is due to the unique historical viewpoint it delivers which I've never heard before. It was a good long-term history lesson that concentrated on the last century, which is both the one I'm most interested in and the one I can relate to the most.

I'm extremely impressed by how William Strauss was able to predict the financial crisis. However, it's also worth mentioning
Joyce Reynolds-Ward
What a bunch of utter bunkum. This book was part of a 90s-era spate of quasi-futurist attempts to project cyclical patterns on history in a time perceived to be a post-historical era. The authors ignore or try to handwave away the times the history doesn't fit their particular perspective, and they have a conservative cultural agenda they're trying to promote. It fits into the whole "change agent," "church growth theory" sort of speculation that came out of Fuller Theological Seminary in the 70s ...more
Keith Akers
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I approached this book initially very skeptically. My previous experience with "prophecy" was, as I vaguely recall, a book called "The Great Depression of the 1990's" or something like that. But the authors make a convincing case first, that each generation (they define generations in terms of contemporaries or cohorts) really does have a different character, and second, that this generational intermix would produce a major crisis in the U. S. sometime in the period 2005 - 2025.

A social crisis
Michael Darmody
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating to read the parallels and accuracy of many predictions from back in 1997: just at beginning of mainstream of internet, ten years before iPhone etc.

They predicted a Crisis around 2006, exactly when the US real estate scam accelerated us into the 2008 financial meltdown. They claim the crisis climax usually shows up around 10 years after the catalyst: 2016 = Trump.

A well researched book that held my attention and interest well for 335 pages. I definitely suggest as a tool to gain conte
Jun 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I actually finished! I thought I was never going to get to the end of this book.

Whilst I enjoyed the premise and I can see the archetypes I felt like Strauss and Howe belaboured the point. They made their point and then they made the same point again, and then they made the point in a different way and then they found another way to make their point.

I get it OKay!
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read after being recommended by several guests on Real Vision. Somewhat accurately predicted the last 20 years. Presented me with a lot of ideas I have not encountered before about generational shifts. Had to give 4 since sometimes felt a bit like a fortune teller though spouting generalities. Would still highly recommend everyone read though.
First on the White House agenda – the collapse of the global order. Next, war?
Jonathan Freedland
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What will be the Fourth Turning Crisis? 5 54 Jan 15, 2012 02:15PM  

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40 likes · 13 comments
“Yet the great weakness of linear time is that it obliterates time's recurrence and thus cuts people off from the eternal—whether in nature, in each other, or in ourselves. When we deem our social destiny entirely self-directed and our personal lives self-made, we lose any sense of participating in a collective myth larger than ourselves. We cannot ritually join with those who come before or after us.” 3 likes
“History is seasonal, and winter is coming.” 2 likes
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