Strauss & Howe (was; Children and Freedom)

JOdel at JOdel at
Thu Aug 7 12:43:30 EDT 2003

Minnow asks;
<< 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 
American perspective.) 

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.)
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