I am intrigued by the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe related to The Fourth Turning. Their profound insights are helping me gain perspective and context related to global and national events shaping the trajectory of the country that I dearly love and am privileged to be a citizen…the United States of America.
They discuss four macro “turnings”:
- The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.
- The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.
- The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
- The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.
Strauss & Howe identify the “Phases of Life” this way:
The phases, and social roles, of the modern American lifecycle can be summarized as follows:
- Childhood (pueritia, age 0-20). Social role: growth (receiving nurture, acquiring values).
- Young Adulthood (iuventus, age 21-41). Social role: vitality (serving institutions, testing values).
- Midlife (virilitas, age 42-62). Social role: power (managing institutions, applying values).
- Elderhood (senectus, age 63-83). Social role: leadership (leading institutions, transferring values).
- Late Elderhood (age 84+). Social role: dependence (receiving comfort from institutions, remembering values).
The first four (childhood through elderhood) comprise the quaternity of the human lifecycle. The length of these four—roughly 84 years—matches the span of the American saeculum dating back to the Revolution.