Neil Howe: "The Fourth Turning Has Arrived"

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Adam Taggart via Peak Prosperity blog,

In 1996, demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe published the book The Fourth Turning. This study of generational cycles ("turnings") in America revealed predictable social trends that recur throughout history, and warned of a coming crisis (a "fourth turning") based on this research.

Fourth turnings are defined by disorder and great changes brought on by a breakdown of the systems and operating principles that dominated the prior three turnings.

Our society has entered a fourth turning (consisting of the twenty-year periods leading up to and out of it immediately.)


It is a season you have to move through before you are born again -- so to speak -- as a society, and regain institutional confidence. You have to go through a crucible to get there.


I think the fourth turning started -- probably, if I were to date it now -- in 2008: the realigning election in that year of Barack Obama against John McCain. And, obviously, simultaneously with that, as we all recall, an epic, historic crash of the global economy from which we still have not recovered.


We are sort of hobbling along in kind of a low-earth orbit, with continued high unemployment and excess capacity -- not just in the United States, but around the world. And, of course, all the rules of economic policy seem broken and lie in fragments on the floor. People are wondering what the heck do we do in this new era. 

Each of the generational cohorts living within this turning (e.g. Boomers, Gen X, Millennials) have roles to play.

This is a period when, in each of these turnings, each generation is moving in their new phase of life. Boomers are beginning to retire, they are beginning to redefine the senior phase of life. X’s are beginning to assume mid-life roles as the dominant parent generation and leaders. These are people born in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And, Millennials are fully beginning to come of age and redefine young adulthood. And, meanwhile, a very small generation is just beginning to come on stream, which remembers nothing before 2008.


We can already see these generational divisions forming, and it is interesting how each generation is to some extent defined by the thing they have, they just have no memory of, they just barely have no memory of (e.g., Boomers are defined by the World War II that even the oldest of them cannot remember).

History gives us patterns that predict how these generational archetypes will collaborate, compete and collide with one another as we enter into crisis. Understanding these in advance will give us a big advantage on the types of policies and solutions most likely to yield success. And we sorely need these, as the problems we're heading into have no easy answers:

There are patterns here which we recognize, and it is very important not to have historically amnesia. To look back and see where we have been, see where we are going, and more importantly, to understand the dynamics behind these social trends have familiar parallels. We just need to have the historical imagination to look far enough backwards and forward to see where else they have happened or to see where they possibly will happen again.


I am nervous. I am nervous about the future right now. I think we have a lot more deep issues, deep crises to save in the economy. I am also very nervous about what I see geopolitically.


We cannot possibly afford the government we have promised ourselves. And, that will be a painful process of deleveraging, and it is not just deleveraging the explicit debt that we have already actually formally borrowed, it is all the implicit debt. And, I think we will deal with it, because we have no other choice.


But, my point is this: No one simply solves a terrible problem on a sunny day when they can afford at least for the time being to look the other way. Problems like that are faced when people have no other choice, and it is a really grim day. And, it is white-knuckle time and horrible things are happening with markets around the world, or horrible things are happening, at least historically, we have seen that geopolitically around the world. And, that is when people are forced to act.  

Strauss and Howe's research provides another lens through which to view how the next twenty years will be remarkably different from life as we've been used to. It's one worth looking through.

Click the image below to link to Chris Martenson's site and listen to his interview with Neil Howe (60m:25s):


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DaddyO's picture

So let's get on with it already...many of us are growing weary of the constant assualt from every direction, especially the .gov.


Pladizow's picture

Difficult, repetetive and boring read - but great info!

espirit's picture

Ever increasing subsidy of the poor, and .gov will print until it pisses blood.

Big Corked Boots's picture

Well, it is already pissing blood... it remains to be seen for how long, or how many will bleed out.

RockyRacoon's picture

Cue the bashing of the old folks.  It's inevitable in dividing and conquering.  Wait for it....

markmotive's picture

Too bad we spent all the money. Mankind is incapable of seeing far beyond the present.

Western was nice while it existed.

Anusocracy's picture

I think the turnings are just cyclical manifestations of the Idiocracy Effect.

Kiss My Icelandic Ass's picture



"This study of generational cycles ...  revealed predictable social trends that recur throughout history"


Right. Predictable in hindsight. Gimme a break.

Think for yourself's picture

" We cannot possibly afford the government we have promised ourselves." That is plain wrong. Missing the forest for the trees. We could easily afford it; it is the systemic inefficiency of a profit-seeking parasitic economy which sucks out the lifeblood of a productivity such that we could easily provide abundance for all. That and, of course, the mindset of scarcity itself, whereas infected individuals fail to see the abundance surrounding them and actually destroy abundance by the endless dissatisfaction which always seeks to appropriate and consume more for oneself. But this cannot be understood from within that mindset or, as Einstein put it, a problem cannot be resolved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

The over-automation of production would not be a problem but rather abundance-generating, if that excess production were seen as a fruit to benefit all. In a post-industrial world which needs employ only a bare fraction of the workforce to provide for the needs of all, the assumption that everyone needs a work-related revenue stream - when productive work positions, as opposed to services-related or artificial-consumption ineffectual make-work, have become too rare for everybody to secure one - that assumption is what keeps us back collectively rather than harnessing the huge amount of energy of the floating workforce for creative, productive purposes.

As the Invisible Committee stated in their 2007 "The Coming Insurrection":
"The series of tasks that can't be delegated to automation form a nebulous cluster of jobs that, because they cannot be occupied by machines, are occupied by any old human - warehousemen, stock people, assembly line workers, seasonal workers, etc. This flexible, undifferentiated workforce that moves from one task to the next and never stays long in business can no longer even consolidate itself as a force, being outside the center of the production process and employed to plug the holes of what has not yet been mechanized, as if pulverized in a multitude of interstices. The temp is the figure of a worker who is no longer a worker, who no longer has a trade - but only abilities that he sells where he can - and shos very availability is also a kind of work.

On the margins of this workforce that is effective and necessary for the functioning of the machine, is a growing majority that has become superfluous, that is certainly useful to the flow of production but not much else, which introduces the risk that, in its idleness, it will set about sabotaging the machine. The menace of a general demobilization is the specter that haunts the present system of production. There is a serious risk that we will end up finding a [creative, non-system supporting] "job" in our idleness. This floating population must somehow be kept occupied. But to this day we have not found a better disciplinary method than wages. It's therefore necessary to pursue the dismantling of "social gains" so that the most restless ones, those who will only surrender when faced with the alternative between dying of hunger or ztagnating in jail, are lured back to the bosom of wage-labor. The burgeoning slave trade in "personal services" must continue: cleaning, catering, massage, domestic nursing, prostitution, tutoring, therapy, psychological aid, etc. This is accompanied by a continual raising of the standards of security, hygiene, control, and culture, and by an accelerated recycling of fashions, all of which establish the artificial need for such services."

SgtShaftoe's picture

I see you haven't read Adam Smith. Wealth of nations, and reading history should shake you of your illusion.

Professor Fate's picture

Wealth of Nations should be required reading for everyone prior to picking up any welfare or entitlement check. (Ok, maybe the Cliff's Notes version in emergency cases).  As far as the Fourth Turning...this is an exceptional explanation of generational design and what many already know or feel but simple can't explain.  What is implied here, however, is that we can learn from the past, change this course, and reverse the trend.  In my opinion, the trend is irreversible.  We must go through the pain and cleansing effect of the fourth turning. As the Chinese have always said, "Wealth does not pass 3 generations".

Alan "Poopsie" Greenspan estimates that the current generation is only about 65% as productive as the "Boomers" they are replacing in the workplace.  I have no reason to argue that statistic as an employer who interviews and hires for my company.  In fact, the 65% figure is probably a little high.  Our educational system has completey collapsed (likely due to the unions) and a high school diploma is now a generally worthless piece of paper.  The point is, the effect on GDP will be staggering as the "texting" generation replaces the Boomers. 

There is nothing you can do to side track the Fourth Turning.  It is, in fact, already here and its like trying to stop water from flowing downhill.  While you can't rule out a great war, in our case, the Fourth Turning will likely be defined by a major economic collapse, much like the Great Depression of the 30's which defined the previous Fourth Turning.  Lessons will be learned as the necessary "cleansing" takes place.  I am glad I am 64 and have the tools and skills to see it through.  I would hate to be 17 with a resume of available skills that only includes texting, sexting, and an in depth knowledge of "The History of Androids".   

Fate the Magnificent

"Push the Button, Max"  

Dangertime's picture

The first thing you need to understand is that profits create wealth.

The second thing you need to understand is that those automations decrease the cost of goods so that all consumers can easily obtain more wealth.

Short Change's picture

This would be the innevitable outcome of humanity if left to its own devices. Einstein was a firm believer in the abundance of the Universe, and specifically in energy. Abundance of energy breeds abundance in almost every other consumable/produceable. In my own work I am constantly reminded of the fact that energy is everywhere, and the moment an endless (free) supply of energy is tapped, the "scarcity" of all things on the planet will seem arbitrary. I know this won't make sense to everyone, but this really is the root of oppression and the mechanism of the perpetuation of scarcity that prohibits humanity from turning the corner. Sadly, there is enough resistance to (and lack of understanding of) this paradigm shift that we may not get there anytime soon, and will instead return to the dark ages having to wait for the next Renaissance for enough people to accept abundance and allow it to manifest.

imbtween's picture

if I could +1 that 1x10^500 I would, and the only person who thinks I'm "old" is my 9 year old daughter. But - you nailed it. The gov will victimize every vulnerable class and blame it on another class, Same old same old.

FeralSerf's picture

"Ever increasing subsidy of the" RICH, "and .gov will print until it pisses blood."

It is not the poor that are bankrupting us. It is the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the non-working uber-wealthy (and government "services", especially "defense").

espirit's picture

I don't dissagree.  The poor must be kept placated to prevent anarchy, which no doubt IS scheduled... as in future tense.

The question remains "where will the thiefs go for protection"?  Many will probably be dissappointed that there isn't room on the ark for them.

CH1's picture

You are mistaking anarchy for chaos.

espirit's picture

I was trying to be polite, but this is Fight Club - lol.

1000 splendid suns's picture

I've read the book and agree with the logic, but...
It doesn't mention the takeover of our government from within by the fascist psychopaths. It has become a dream world of insane scandals and hypocrisy, where coworkers are stuck in normalcy bias. "Truth is treason in a house of lies."

RockyRacoon's picture

Truth is treason in the empire of lies.

Ron Paul never put it better. 

Lore's picture

Our thoughts run parallel. The Top studies and anticipates these transition periods. Mass manipulation is an advanced science. Between ages, oligarchy works to pre-empt, deter, postpone and hijack enlightenment. Century after century, old myths get recycled. 

Normalcy bias extends to awareness and understanding of Big Brother and instruments of oppression.  Orwell wrote social commentary after WW2 in response to visible abuse of power during his generation.  Public interest in his work is surging nowadays.  But how many new readers make the connection between Big Brother and the new Big Green Brother?  Oligarchy senses disillusionment, crafts and markets a new Solution before the next generation even knows what questions to ask.  The Agenda 21 "sustainability" movement pushes New Big Lies in service of the same old psychopathic meat grinder, this time ostensibly to Save The Planet.  Marketed as redemption, evil reinvents itself for a new and better-brainwashed generation.  

Spanky's picture

The Top studies and anticipates these transition periods. Mass manipulation is an advanced science. -- Lore

Then it is time to act "unexpectedly" and against conditioning.

Challenge the legitimacy of the government directly (and non-violently) at the ballot box. Vote to withdraw your consent to be governed by these corrupt bastards. Pit their politicians against the plain language of the Constitution. No Candidates, No Consent.

Lore's picture

Elections are another con. To vote is to concede. Should we compromise all at once, or in small bites?

Spanky's picture

Apparently you know little about the Constitution. Let me ask a simple question -- do you consent to what your government is doing right now?

[Edit] Voting is not the con. The elite's twin parties are the con. 

Lore's picture

Point taken. Hint: I'm not from around here.  ;-)

Inspector Bird's picture

It is both.  The extremes are subsidized while the hard working middle is ignored and pressed for more that it cannot deliver.

NoDebt's picture


Remember that in most societies throughout most of history the balance of power was defined by a small number of rich, a larger number of poor and just enough "middle class" to service the rich.  I fear we are devolving back into that model in the US.  Our large "middle class" nothing more than an historical anomaly, driven by unique events, not to be repeated anytime soon.

dark_matter's picture

I work in the computer industry. I read an opinion piece in the IEEE magazine in about 1995 where the author said that computers would be maintained by the middle class to help the upper class control the lower class. I half believed it then but see it as absolutely true now. The control is both direct (data bases, facial recognition, etc.)  and indirect (circuses ala porn, games, gambling, etc.).

MonsterBox's picture

Bingo!  If the 20-30 year-olds were to unplug from their gaming, porn and gambling (& TV) long enough, there'd be EU/Brazilian-style "protests" overnight, something well beyond the OWS festivals...

grid-b-gone's picture

The hard working middle is competing directly in the worldwide labor glut. This has produced stagnating wages. Central bank printing makes each earned dollar less valuable.

Eventually, wages will approach equilibrium, but as long as the middle and less-than-middle keep replicating themselves in excess of today's anemic growth rate, the situation will persist. 

To correct excess applicants per job opening, increase jobs or decrease applicants. The second part is the one workers control. The former requires waiting for the elected or appointed to care.


HardAssets's picture


 "We cannot possibly afford the government we have promised ourselves."

The banksters stole 97% of the purchasing power of our earnings and savings over the last century. They set up 'social programs' to prevent backlash, encouraged two paycheck families (to keep up with the loss in real earnings), and off shored jobs overseas. All this was done using paid off whore politicians and bureaucrats. 'Government' has been nothing but a mechanism to help with the theft.

'Austerity' and 'paying off our debts' is another fraud, another lie.

How much better off would most people be today if 97% of their wealth & earnings hadn't been stolen ?  How come few articles seem to mention this fact ?

This guy writing about 'turnings' may be well intentioned . . . but he completely misses the point. This is like so many authors who come up with their own pet copywrited phrase for book marketing purposes.

knukles's picture

Just because one is weary of the assault does not mean its pace will change.  The decline of empire takes time.

IridiumRebel's picture

And we are following the "Declining Empire" play book to perfection.

francis_sawyer's picture

There is no 'Fourth Turning'... There is only the Bernank...

IridiumRebel's picture

There is no Dana. There is only Zool.

Sub Dude's picture

+1 for Ghostbusters reference. Are you the keymaster?

MisterMousePotato's picture

Best line in the movie. Second? "Okay. Important safety tip there. Thanks [Harold Ramos]."

August's picture

Actually... it's more of a guideline.

francis_sawyer's picture

It's true... This man has no penis...

NoTTD's picture

Whenever anyone asks if you are a god, say "Yes."

DaddyO's picture

The weariness comes from not seeing any significant increase or decrease in the onslaught. As I've said many times it will be a slow slide into oblivion.

Although, the whole NSA thing has the propensity to unravel very quickly given the recent turn of events.

This could change the dynamic a bit and will be interesting to watch it unfold.


Spanky's picture

Why not carry the fight to them? Waiting simply gives them the initiative. Waiting is what we've been doing -- how's that working?

Why not challenge TPTB at the ballot box with a campaign designed to attract voters to the polls, not to vote for their candidates, but challenge their legitimacy to govern? Vote to withdraw your consent to be governed.

No Candidates, No Consent

Much rather be in the thick of the fight, if a fight be coming.

MisterMousePotato's picture

What would happen if Edward Snowden was elected President?

That might be fun.

He certainly has a better chance than Harry Brown.

kito's picture

Knucks....not more than 10 years....

HardAssets's picture

Very true.  And people should welcome every extra day they have to better prepare themselves. Build supplies, skills, and relationships.  They should welcome every moment they have (in relative peace) to spend with those they care about.

Midasking's picture

We will not deal with it ever... the paper inflation is the system that will be defended by the people that own it and control it.  They have no interest in you.