"The Fourth Turning" - A Must Read

Reilly Jones (Reilly@compuserve.com)
Thu, 6 Mar 1997 01:36:55 -0500

Robin Hanson wrote 3/5/97: <This year Strauss & Howe came out with a
sequel, "The Fourth Turning", endorsed by both Gore & Gingrich.... So
please listen when I say (and note how unusual this statement is):


Also, amazingly enough Strauss & Howe & the most of the people
attracted to them seem like relatively reasonable people...>

I perused this book carefully during a pleasant evening at Barnes & Noble.
Afterwards, I had one question: why wasn't this book stacked in the
Astrology/New Age section of the store? Most of the people I see attracted
to this section seem like relatively reasonable people, they would enjoy
reading about Hari Seldon's hot date with Gail Sheehy - psychohistory meets

Books like this on historical cycles have as much validity as calculating
the positions of the planets when you are born, and then concocting
interesting generalized theories about what's going to happen next. I'll
grant that the authors are a cut above the usual conjurer's tricks, they
use more sophisticated smoke & mirrors than Madame LaRue the Fortuneteller.
Their market-targeted readers are the tried-and-true gullible aging
yuppies with the narcissistic urge to read about their life, have their
palms read and have money to waste.

The fallacy of analysis like this, is that you can start arbitrarily
anywhere in history, in any given year, and make historical facts fit
whatever cycle you choose, whether generational, sunspots, comet
appearances, meteor showers, radioactive decay, climatological, you name
it. The Elliot Wave, the Kondratieff Cycle, business cycles in general
fall into this type of false prophecy. The authors of this particular book
bend over backwards to mischaracterize historical events to include as
"evidence" of some magic cycle, but completely ignore major events that
fall outside of their "theory," hoping their readers had a good Outcome
Based Education in history to not know any better.

History is continuous, one year after another, no one year any different
than any other year, every year of equal length. No year is to be given a
privileged position when starting a cyclical analysis. There is no
"generation" identifiable anywhere except in relation to yourself and
yourself alone. To arbitrarily assert otherwise is to commit a category
error in analysis, unless simply telling a non-analytical story, such as
"the Depression generation." If history has any pattern at all, it might
be of a fractal nature, self-similarity on different geo-temporal scales of
periods of activity vs. quiescence. I doubt anyone will ever make a
rigorous analytical case for it; too many variables, it's an open system,
not closed.

In writing this book, I have the feeling the authors consulted the highest
authority possible on their subject: P.T. Barnum.

Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology:
Reilly@compuserve.com | The rational, moral and political relations
| between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'