Strauss & Howe (was; Children and Freedom)
JOdel at aol.com
JOdel at aol.com
Thu Aug 7 12:43:30 EDT 2003
<< Fascinating. Are you able to give a *very* brief resume of what the
indicators are for any given "Turning", or do we have to go and read the
whole text of Strauss & Howe's theories? >>
There are four books on cyclic history that Strauss & Howe have brought out
to date. Each one has tweaked the theory and fine tuned it a bit.
Basically, they propose that once cyclic history initiates, the different
generational "personality" imprint which is left on the people born during each
different sector of the cycle (Turnings) tends to stay with them for life.
The dynamics of the way the four different personality types and their
outlooks interact with each other thereafter tends to "drive" history into recurring
cycles. They state that there *have* been isolated historic "cycles" before,
but those tended to flatten out when the sort of world events that originally
initiated them did NOT recur.
Eventually however, (probably due to increased communications and the rise of
nationalism) around the mid-15th century in Europe the cyclic pattern started
up again, and has kept recurring, no doubt due to the fact that society in
genral had developed to the point that the personality types were generating
their own initiating "events".
The best introductory book for the theory is probably the one called The
Fourth Turning which deals primarily with how society behaves during each of the
turnings and how it effects the differnt generations alive during each of them.
First Turnings immediately follow the resolution of a major social crisis.
The most recent of these was the post WWII era from the mid-'40s to the
mid-'60s. First turnings are eras where it is assumed that peace and prosperity have
been either already regained or are soon to be established. It is an expansive
era where great civic works are undertaken, the standard of living for the
"common man" rises and children are indulged and given a great deal of freedom.
First Turnings are historically child-centered.
Second Turnings are periods of great socal upheaval whrein the children of
the First Turning, who have been indulged and encouraged to develop ideals look
at their parents' society, find it physically lavish and spiritually empty and
start violently protesting the hollowness of their parents' generations
values. (Actually, now I am writing it down, it wasn't the Third Turning that
Jones's childhood household resembled, it was the Second Turning) Children during
the Second turning are regarded as scaled down adults, and given
"responsibility" for their own welfare, and are often neglected. The most recent Second
Turing was the mid-'60s to about 1980.
Third Turnings are nasty cynical periods wherein civic works unravel and
technology expands at an accellerated rate. Society tends to polarize. The
disturbing socal pathologies common to children from the Second Turning ensure that
the children during a Third Turning will given dicipline and their freedoms are
curtailed. Children from Third Turnings are generally taught to work together
as a team. The most recent Third Turning went from about 1980-something to
the turn of the century. The previous Third turning went from the early 20th
century to the late 1920s.
Fourth Turnings are periods of Civic crisis, wherein society feels itself to
be under threat, during these periods the civic government attempts to resolve
the crisis and gradually society permits most of its resources to be
redirected to this effort. Children during a Fourth Turning are kept away from the
spotlight and protected, often overly protected to the pointmof being smothered
with every aspect of their lives under parental direction and control. We have
just entered a Fourth Turning. The last Fourth Turning went from the late 1920
to the end of WWII.
What Strauss & Howe contend is that, far more often than not, the mindset of
each Turning clicks into place with astonishing suddeness. You can look back
after only a very few years and see the point at which society's whole outlook
The last Fourth Turning was initiated by the Wall Street crash in '29. This
reflected and affected the economy all over the world and the "crisis" mode of
the era was not confined to the United States. (Although I'll have to point
out that the first books, in partuicular, were written from an specificaly
The last First Turning was initiated by the end of WWII. This had global
The last Second Turning was initiated by the assasination of President
Kennedy. Every American who was alive then will probably remember "where were you
when Kennedy was shot?" until the day they die. But the same social dynamics
which were going on in the US were just as active in Europe and around the world.
The outlook of the last Third Turning clicked into place at some point in
Regan's first term, but there wasn't a "pivoting event" for it until '86, when
the social change in attitude was already under way, suggesting that the change
in outlook can initiate when the time is right, regardless of the lack of a
specific trigger. But society's awareness will find or create the symbolic
trigger after the fact, if necessary. In this case it was the Challenger disaster.
The present Fourth Turing was initiated by 9/11.
>>At what point in the centuries do these Turnings start? To which
couhtry[ies] do they apply? What is their general duration? Are they regular, or of an
arbitrary duration? Does some major factor such as WWII, which affects the
whole population drastically, alter them entirely? Do they always follow
1,2,3,4, or may they randomise if other factors such as WWII intervene?
I am trying really quite hard to work out how the present attitudes to
children and those in the 1930s-50s match each other, and having a certain amount of
difficulty, you see.<<
Cyclic history appears to apply primarily to all "Western" societies, but
various non-western are often also involved in it. The Turnings last
approximately 17-20 years and a "Cycle" the length of a long human lifespan, about 80
years. Their progression is absolutely regular within minor adjustments of timing,
Straus & Howe have found only one anomalous cycle, where the crisis was
generated about 10 years ahead of the normal schedule and the resolution went
badly. That particular cycle had a truncated Third Turning and did not produce the
normal "civic" generation typical of that era. The following cycle's First
Turning was administered by a generation that did not have the usual outlook for
it, but the attitudes regarding children throughout it were typical of First
Turnings and produced a generation of the normal First Turning "personality".
The following cycle proceeded acording to the normal pattern. The major factors
which you mention are the inherent pivoting events which "drive" the
progression of the cycles. Social strata has very little effect on the generatinal
imprint, although an individual's own upbringing will offer some modification.
Where you are slightly off-target is that you are regarding the period from
the '30s-'50s as a single Turning. This period overlapped two very different
Turnings. The attitudes of society as a whole during most of DWJ's childhood
were those of a Fourth Turning where children are typically protected and their
lives overcontroled. But Jones's parents were in the purest Second Turning
style in which the needs of adults are the priority and children are generally
"empowered" to take control of their own lives. Often with terrible results. The
generational type which Second Turnings produce tend to make society a little
ashamed of having dodged its responsibilities. While there are some formidable
individuals produced in these periods it can be noted that the socal costs
paid by thir generations is usually too hight to be acceptable. The two most
recent examples of this generational type are refered to as the "Lost" generation
and "Generation X". (Which is, after all, the generation that most of DWJ's
work has been written for.)
To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at suberic.net with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at http://suberic.net/dwj/list/
More information about the Dwj