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An interesting pattern in the Fourth Turning

An interesting pattern in the Fourth Turning

Since, as the previous posting explains, the “War on Terrorism” is not the war of the next crisis, we need to go back to the Fourth Turning to find out what it will be.

To guess what’s next, the best place to look is back in the theory. Strauss & Howe say:

Through the last three saecula [i.e since the American Revolution], most liberationist social causes (like feminism or civil rights) tend to seed in a High, blossom in an Awakening, mature in an Unraveling, and decay in a Crisis. [page 310]

I believe this characterization by the authors of their own theory is misleading and perhaps even incorrect. A couple of postings ago, I quoted the authors in a passage in which they observed that the distribution of concentrated power that is achieved by a crisis is the culmination of a process that spanned the three phases prior to the crisis. In other words, a certain class of People fights for power during “peacetime”. But it takes the next major crisis for those People to finally break through and “crash the party” that is going on in the Big American Tent.

“Liberation” is defined as “the act or process of trying to achieve equal rights and status.” It is by definition the process of distributing concentrated power. So instead of “decaying” during the Crisis, as Strauss & Howe say above, the situation is reversed for some of the “liberationist”causes. In other words, those causes don’t decay in the Crisis; on the contrary, they break through. This pattern is obvious once you look closely at Strauss & Howe.

Specifically, the pattern exhibited by Strauss & Howe’s theory that the authors themselves missed is the following: the Crisis is about resolving a major “liberationist” issue that was raised in the prior Awakening, but which was not adopted by the nation. In other words, the Awakening is about people bringing forth new liberationist ideas. Sometimes, some of the ideas “stick” and are adopted by the nation. Other times, the idea does not stick. And it is precisely those powerful liberationist ideas which did not stick that become resolved during the next crisis. The following discussion shows how this pattern has played out over the past five crises:

The applicable Awakening for our present time is what Strauss & Howe call the "Consciousness Revolution" (1964-1984). American society knows this period by the name the "Sixties".

Note that the pattern described above precludes the “War on Terrorism” from being the Next Crisis. In the Sixties, who was talking about combating terrorism in the quest to decentralize power? The answer is: Nobody that history remembers. So if this is the Next Crisis, Strauss & Howe’s theory breaks.

Once written out, this pattern – “to understand the next Crisis, look to the major prior Awakening attempts that failed” - seems so obvious that one wonders why the authors missed it. Why did everyone else who read the book apparently miss it too?

The only reason I can think of is that these people looked back at the Sixties – recalling the flower children, hippie communes, Transcendental meditation, Timothy Leary, the SLA and Black Panthers – and couldn’t imagine what from that troubled time would be worth risking the nation for. If that’s the case, they weren’t looking close enough.

[posted: 12/14/03]

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