William Strauss and Neil Howe claim America has just entered the “Fourth Turning” of the fifth saeculum since the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Below is a chart showing the timeframes of each saeculum and the turnings within that saeculum.
A key dynamic in Strauss and Howe’s theory is the oscillation of crises. Each saeculum begins with a high sense of community and unity. Civic structures run effectively and efficiently. During the Second Turning a spiritual crisis emerges. The youth begin to feel that the social order is confining and stale. They become introspective as they search for deeper meaing. During the Third Turning there is a deepening and consolidating of the insights gained from introspection and spiritual quest. However, in the meantime, the cultural institutions are coming apart and the culture fragments. During the Fourth Turning a secular crisis emerges. It often (though I don’t think necessarily) culminates in an armed conflict. There is a struggle to develop a common ground on which to rebuild and rejuvenate cultural institutions for the future. After the crisis climaxes, a new saeculum is born. During the First Turning, gains in community cohesion are deepened and consolidated which eventually gives birth to a new spiritual crisis. And so the cycle goes. The names of the Second and Fourth Turnings in the chart suggest the historical events related to each crisis.
Because of the dynamics of the generations involved and the issues they face, there is a mood common to each of the turnings. In the table below, the Third Turning is italicized indicating the turning that was current at the time the book was published eight years ago.
Studying the two tables in this post will give you some idea of how a saeculum and its turnings unfold. On Monday, I will return to this discussion with some discussion of the specific generations and how they interact to create the turnings.