The Fourth Turning: A Comprehensive Summary
The Fourth Turning is a book by William Strauss and Neil Howe. It outlines the foundation for what is now known as Strauss-Howe generational theory. The main tenet of the book is that American and global history follows a generational cycle. The cycle is defined by four "Turnings,” each lasting about 20 years. Generational archetypes play a crucial role in historical events, and these archetypes recur. The cycle of the four "Turnings" is called a "saeculum” and is roughly the length of human life.
The book offers a detailed description of the underlying philosophy. The key idea is seasonality. The authors offer their findings from nature and history to claim that the cyclical nature of time permeates all life, including American history. Furthermore, the authors analyze Anglo-American history to find patterns in a generational attitude. They then correlate these characteristics to the historical events of significance. The evidence that the authors present focuses on their interpretation of key historical figures, as well as societal attitudes.
The cyclical generational attitudes are the prime factor in analyzing history and politics, according to Strauss and Howe. The authors claim that race, gender, economic class, religion, and political beliefs are all less influential in determining the course of history. This claim is controversial, and authors reflect on their stance against other prominent academics, offering some comparison with several secondary sources.
Overall, the evidence that the authors present is highly subjective and is not sufficiently bolstered with verifiable sources. Each generation is presented as having a unified voice, with few acknowledgments of a diversity of thought within each generational group. Therefore, the predictions are not based on solid evidence. Rather, the book puts forward a theory of generational seasonality. The authors explore what this theory could mean, but they do not offer a sufficient basis for their findings.
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