The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe

General Overview (from
The Fourth Turning continues the project of mapping out the place of generations in history, a project begun in the authors’ earlier books Generations and 13th Gen. If millennial fever takes hold, The Fourth Turning may be only the first of an impending wave of pseudo-scholarly tracts prognosticating future (but imminent!) doom as we collectively close the books on this millennium. Those expecting a serious or dry tome might be put off by the authors’ taste for bulleted text and catchy phrasings, but can you blame these guys for wanting to make impending peril as exciting as possible? After all, they think we are headed toward “events on par with the Revolution, the Civil War, or World War II” in the next 20 years. Mixing solid understanding of present generational divisions, with some fairly broad generalizations, Strauss and Howe promise to move from history to prophecy. Fans of Future Shock, Megatrends, or Powershift will be familiar with the authors’ style of writing and not at all put off by the book’s reach or style. Their take on history provides an intriguing (if not always reliable) lens through which to view the past, present, and maybe even the future.

Why the President Should Read This Book
Bear in mind this book was published in 1997, before the dot-com crash, before 9/11, before the “Great Recession” that started in 2008. Then read this:

The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. Yet this time of trouble will bring seeds of social rebirth.

Are we in a crisis mood? Is the old social order disintegrating? Do we trust politicians and the political process as we once did? Do we trust our jobs to be there tomorrow? Now, I would say the United States are far from widespread severe distress, but with the national debt reaching epic proportions and the likelihood of a general default by the federal government and failure of the dollar, is it as unthinkable as it was perhaps 10 years ago?

History is generally used to predict if-then scenarios. If the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, then an asset bubble will form. If an asset bubble forms, it will burst. The Fourth Turning takes it a step further and says that certain things alwayshappen throughout history, and they predict approximately where we’re at in the cycle. Thus this book is not so much just an examination of history, but as the title says it is a an “American prophecy.” Given their examination of history, and the at least partial accuracy of the predictions they made in 1997, isn’t such a book worth reading and considering?