The Fourth Turning is Nonsense... But


The Fourth Turning is Nonsense

We recently re-read the 4th Turning. And as a whole we still think  it is a piece of pseudo-science trash that occasionally strikes a nerve, much like a broken clock. Pseudoscience fits when a work conflagrates myth, history, and science to make  their ideas fit. Kind of like:  "We need proof. Nothing from History? Then lets look in fiction, legend, or mythos to corroborate things."

When a  work puts Merlin Olsen and Carl Sagan in the same category, that is not thinking laterally,  it is just nonsense.

What Strauss and Howe added in their work was a comprehensive theory of generational repetition: US history moves in 80-year cycles [EDIT- Give or take 10 years], with generations moving through 20-year periods of influence called turnings. The cycles have highs and lows interspersed with major crises in history like the American revolution, the Civil War, and World War II. Each of the four generations embody fundamental characteristics, and these characteristics repeat themselves throughout history. Our current cycle calls for a major, defining crisis that will take place, well, any moment now.

Scientists who actually study social change find the work of Strauss and Howe dubious.

“Social/demographic historians would agree that one can distinguish ‘generations’… but would be skeptical of ideas like cycles or radical disjunctures or character types,” says Claude Fischer, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, who noted that the variation between generations is distinctive “in only a statistical sense, usually percentage points different one way or another.”

From the book: emphasis ours

  • ''Eighty-five years passed between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack on Fort Sumter. That is exactly the same span as between Fort Sumter and the Declaration of Independence.''  
  • ''Add another decade or so to the length of these saecula, and you'll find this pattern continuing through the history of the colonists' English predecessors.'' .... 

So 85 years plus or minus a decade or so? Call it 85 +/- 13 years? Blinded with Bullshit is what we'd call it

We re-read it recently because a colleague informed us that its authors were  connected and readers of Will and Ariel Durant's History works. Assuming that is true, how can  the 4th Turning NOT have any reference in it to them  at all? In fact, even  if the authors didn't know the Durants, to not have any of their work in your research smells to high heaven. Have you ever looked at the bibliography of names i nthat book? We'd love to know how the Durants' works and Tainter's  were ignored especially since it did  not contradict the Fourth Turning's ideas. We think, but cannot prove, the Durants' work was plagiarized or at least used as a basis for Strauss and Howe.

Further, as fans of "The Collapse of  Complex Societies" a book written by Tainter 20 years  prior; How can the hacks who wrote that book on "Saeculums" not have referenced Tainter's brilliant piece of societal anthropology? Tainter's book corroborates  theirs in several scientific ways.

There are so many hedges they write in that piece of garbage  we'd need a landscaper to fix it. 'Winter is coming... but it might not be bad or long'... Seriously?  Preppers beware. 



That said, we do watch cycles and  waves. We read Jung, Campbell, Durant, E.O. Wilson, and historical works for helping to see patterns in human behavior repeating themselves. While history does  not repeat itself, it certainly does  hum the same melody. And that tune  is getting eerily similar to the one we heard in the Balkans  years ago.

But that is where the causation and correlation are reversed. It is not the book's accuracy we are scared of. It is nut jobs like Bannon reading nonsense  by Strauss and Howe that are aiming to make these prophecies self fulfilling. It is the powerful yet mediocre minds that read it that scare us. And we may well be on a path to WW 3. But do not tell us it is a foregone conclusion because of a book and its writers using ocular regression to fit theories to facts and myths.

A self-fulfilling prophecy?

For his part, Bannon stresses that he does not seek a crisis; he is merely prepared for one. Perhaps he sees the prediction of crumbling institutions as a way to justify his efforts to tear them down. The apocalyptic mood of Trump’s presidency, from his “American Carnage” inaugural address to his praise of global autocrats, fits with Strauss and Howe’s predictions of inevitable disaster, presumably ending when millennials mobilize to spark a new civic blossoming.

But millennials themselves, as we have noted, are far more dividedA youthful cohort of 18-29 year-olds—some, but not all, millennial voters—backed Hillary Clinton with 55% of their votes. On the other hand, 37% of that cohort backed Trump, with 8% preferring a third-party candidate. Hence the problem with generalizations about generations.

Ironically, over-confidence about the immutability of young people’s political views likely helped push Trump and Bannon into the White House. But if just a few hundred thousand Americans had voted differently and changed the result of this historically tight race, you can count on one thing: Howe would still be predicting disaster for president Clinton and a millennial utopia to follow.

The lack of scientific support for this idea hasn’t stopped it from influencing Bannon, or from influencing us even if we  do not agree.

This is probably best read as a companion piece to our post today called A Week of Escalating Middle East Problems - John Rubino, since it was that story which started yet another 'end of days' chat among our staff. Also note, we are aware of our own possibility of bias and denial. I mean, who wants to admit the end is near? 

And here is a great Burning Platform piece we posted last year that does make you think the last cycle is here. We've made up our own minds, but aren't married to them. 

- Soren K, Fay Dress, Bon Scott

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