Re: "The Fourth Turning" - A Must Read

Hal Finney (
Fri, 7 Mar 1997 09:57:25 -0800

[BTW, there is a web page now, The details
of the cycles I describe below came from here.]

It's hard to judge the accuracy of the cycles picked out in this book
and the earlier Generations unless you know history well. What were
things really like in the 1910's, the 1870's? The authors describe
events which fit pretty well into the cycles, but who knows whether
they are being selective? One solution would be to look at what other
historians say about this work. Does anyone here have information about
what the authors' peers say?

I did notice a few areas in which their cycles did not seem to work very
well. They identify a cyclic period which extends from the beginning of
the Depression until the end of WWII, roughly the 1930's and early 40's;
the next period encompasses the post-war years up until the early 1960's;
then we have the social unrest of the 60's up through the mid 1980's,
and finally we have the current period, from 1984 through the early
2000's, which is a recap of the 30's and WWII. This should terminate
with another crisis analogous to WWII, around 2005.

Looking at recent times, I'm not sure it fits. The authors have a
break at the re-election of Ronald Reagan in 1984, the "Morning in
America" campaign. Since then we are supposedly in a period of malaise,
uncertainty, discontent, which will culminate in this crisis which is
coming up. But I don't really perceive there to have been a change
in the national mood in the middle 1980's, nor for the period up until
then to have been a continuation of the 1960's. In fact, it's hard for
me to imagine anyone looking at recent history and outlining the period
from 1964 to 1984 as having a coherent national mood, distinct from that
which follows.

There was a huge difference between the social unrest of 1964-1974 and
later years. Beyond that the 70's were a largely forgettable decade,
with none of the energy and spirit of the 1960's. Jimmy Carter lost his
presidency largely because he complained of a "malaise" infecting the
American spirit. I don't recall a shift in mood in the middle 1980's,
either. It certainly didn't seem like the final end of the "age of
aquarius", the death of the hippie. That had happened long before.

Then, they have to compare the present day with the Great Depression.
This doesn't fit at all. Yes, there is uncertainty, worry, concern;
new technologies (the net, biotech) are forcing people to adjust.
But people have been talking about this all my life. Future Shock was
written in 1970.

We face nothing like the challenges and hardships people had to deal with
from 1929 through 1946. Trying to map this to 1984 through 2005 doesn't
seem to work well at all. At best we can postulate that something will
happen which will make us pull together as people did during that phase,
but it doesn't seem to me that we are going into the next decade with
the same emotional attitudes that people must have had after ten grinding
years of severe economic hardship.

Some of authors' characterizations do work pretty well; the can-do era
of the postwar years is distinctly different from the earlier and later
times. Whether that really matches some 19th century period, I have no
idea. But the more recent periods don't fit well with my memories and