The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy

By William Strauss and Neil Howe
Image of the cover of The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Wesley Donehue's book reviews and recommendations.

America Is In Real Trouble, And You Need To Understand Why

Review of The Fourth Turning: What The Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny

I am not scared. However, I am sad.

I am not scared because I see what’s happening. My head is not in the sand, and I see and prepare.

But I am sad to see where this nation is heading. We’ve lost our morals, which has made us lose our strength. The divisiveness is unraveling the fabric of our nation, and weak leadership throws fuel on the flame rather than shoring up our foundations. Simultaneously, competing countries like China, with immoral human rights violations, continue to grow in population, power, and authority.

We go through our days as if America can never fall. As if somehow we are being protected by a magical power that “comes through the night with the light from above.” Its fantasy. The strength of our forefathers rallying against England or our grandfathers storming the beaches of Normandy does not mean we are strong forever. God has not promised America’s protection. We are not the promised land. And even if we were, He has proven he will let it and its people go through absolute hell.

The muscle of most bodybuilders eventually turns to flab. And sadly, that’s where we find America today. Strength has succumbed to complacency, creating a lazy, sluggish, emotional, and weak nation ill-prepared for threats.

History has proven that America goes through a cycle about the length of an average human life or 80 years. Those years are broken into four “turnings” of about 20 years:

  1. The High – “an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.”
  2. The Awakening – “a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.”
  3. The Unraveling – “a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
  4. The Crisis – “a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of old civic order with a new one.”

When we forget the lessons taught to us by the crisis of the previous generation, we begin unraveling until the point of crisis. Then the cycle starts to repeat itself, if and only if we actually make it out of the Crisis, which is no certainty.

The previous cycle ended with WWII. Today we find ourselves in the fourth turning, The Crisis. Our nation hangs in the balance, and we have yet to decide whether or not our nation will repeat the cycle. Past nations have crumbled completely during The Fourth Turning, and there is no certainty that America will not do so. Strauss and Howe wrote The Fourth Turning in 1997. Today their words seem prophetic:

“History is seasonal, and winter is coming. … The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the 00 decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. . .The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.

The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule.”

This is a book you must read immediately. I read it two years ago and picked it up again this year to remind myself that we are currently in some real trouble. How much risk is yet to be determined. Still as someone in politics with their ear to the ground at all times, I see every day getting worse, and I feel it will get a whole lot worse before it gets any better. That means you have two choices. You can ignore the storm, or you can prepare. To prepare, you must understand what’s happening. To truly understand what’s happening, you should pick up this book now. It could be the most important book you have ever read

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