[FoRK] We're Governed by Callous Children

Bill Stoddard wgstoddard at gmail.com
Wed Nov 4 05:00:18 PST 2009

Good writeup.   Just started reading 'The Fourth Turning" which 
characterizes our current cycle in history in a similar way.


 From the book, written in 1997:
"... an excellent case can be made the U.S. is approaching another time 
of secular crisis, a Fourth Turning, with an expected due date of 2005 – 
seven years from now – plus or minus a few years in either direction."

Here is a snip from a John Mauldin's "Outside the Box" newsletter in 
June this year:


These periods of transitions are part of a larger cyclical pattern made 
up of four distinct eras, or "Turnings," each lasting approximately 20 
years. It can be helpful to think of the four turnings as you might 
think of the four seasons, repeating predictably in their own natural 
rhythm. A full cycle of turnings takes place over a period of about 80 
to 90 years -- roughly the span of a long human life. A new turning 
begins as a new youth generation comes of age, bringing a new social 
ethic that compensates for the excesses of the midlife generation then 
in power.

While we don't have the space here to go into the full details of Howe's 
research, it's important to the topic at hand that we quickly recap the 
Four Turnings.

The First Turning is referred to by Howe as a *High*. As this follows a 
period of crisis, one of the hallmarks of a First Turning is a 
heightened sense of community and collective optimism, driven in part by 
the fact that the society has just come through a difficult and 
challenging time. Consequently, during First Turnings, societal 
institutions tend to be strong while individualism is weak. The 
post-World War II "High" of the mid-1940s through early '60s is the most 
recent example of a First Turning.

The Second Turning, called an *Awakening*, typically starts out feeling 
like the high tide of a High, with signs of progress and prosperity 
everywhere. But just as everything seems to be going along swimmingly, 
large swaths of society begin to chaff under the social conformity of 
the High, beginning to gravitate to more individualistic pursuits and 
demanding that their personal interests come first. You may recognize 
the "Consciousness Revolution" of the mid-1960s through early 1980s, 
correctly, as the Second Turning.

Next up, the Third Turning, which Howe calls an *Unraveling*, is much 
the opposite of a High. To wit, individualism dominates, while 
institutions are increasingly weak and discredited. Quoting Howe on the 

    "This is a time when social authority feels inconsequential, the
    culture feels exhausted, and people feel bewildered by the number of
    options available to them. It is a time of celebrity circuses and a
    tremendous amount of freedom and creativity in our personal lives,
    but very little sense of public purpose.

    The most recent Third Turning began in the mid-'80s with Morning in
    America, and continued through the '90s. Previous periods of
    Unraveling in American history were also decades of cynicism and bad
    manners. Think of the 1920s, the 1850s, the 1760s. And history
    teaches us that the Third Turnings inevitably end in Fourth Turnings.

Finally, there is the Fourth Turning, called a* Crisis*. The recent 
Third Turning appears to be winding down, and we are currently on the 
cusp of a Fourth Turning. This is a time of great turmoil, when 
society's basic institutions are torn down and rebuilt, and seemingly 
insurmountable problems are addressed. During Fourth Turnings, America 
engages in a struggle for its very survival and redefines its identity 
as a nation. Large wars are often a part of this process. The American 
Revolution, Civil War, Great Depression, and World War II were all 
features of past Fourth Turnings.


Interesting stuff...


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