Boomers: Has Our Crisis Arrived?

We came across this material a few weeks ago via Casey Research, and it just showed up again — an essay based on The Fourth Turning, a 1997 book by William Strauss and Neil Howe. A fascinating look at history through the lens of generational cycles, it might illuminate events unfolding right now. In “Boomers – Your Crisis Has Arrived” James Quinn gives his interpretation of their work, looking at the twentieth century up to right now:

“Strauss and Howe believe that history is marked by 80 to 100 year cycles which match the lifespan of most human beings. These cycles are discernible by four generations of 20 to 25 years that show remarkable consistency over history. I’m sure this theory will anger the individualists out there. They are not saying that everyone within a generation acts alike, but are shaped by joint experiences and time period in history. According to Strauss and Howe:

‘Turnings last about 20 years and always arrive in the same order. Four of them make up the cycle of history, which is about the length of a long human life. The first turning is a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order becomes established after the old has been dismantled. Next comes an Awakening, a time of rebellion against the now-established order, when spiritual exploration becomes the norm. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era of strong individualism that surmounts increasingly fragmented institutions. Last comes the Fourth Turning, an era of upheaval, a Crisis in which society redefines its very nature and purpose.’

“They are able to trace these turnings back to 1500 with remarkable consistency. They have broken U.S. history into the following cycles of history: Revolutionary Cycle (1701-1791), Civil War Cycle (1792-1859), Great Power Cycle (1860-1942), and the Millennial Cycle (1943-2???).”

Quinn considers the recent High to be World-War II and the fifties, the Awakening in the mid-sixties, the Unraveling in the Eighties, and the current Crisis marker as 9/11. (I wonder whether, in a few decades, we’ll consider the financial crash of 2008 as that marker. We’ll see.) In any event, I found this a fascinating read, even if he is a bit harsh on the Boomers accumulating their BMWs and McMansions, now running Wall Street and Washington, while ignoring their contribution to the Peace, Civil Rights, Environmental, Feminist and even Back-to-the-Land movements during the Awakening turning.

Read it and let us know what you think.


  1. This is another depressing article that I unfortunately cannot find fault with. The gist of it is we are going to hell in a handbasket, buy gold while you can. Another $800 billion has been flushed down the toilet in Washington, DC, to “restart” the economy. What exactly do we want to restart? Another housing bubble? Another peak oil price? Another cycle of borrow and spend? I fear that war will be seen as a welcome distraction from our misery. I wish we could all just scream “STOP!” to this insanity. Can’t we refocus on what is really important: securing the food and water we need, keeping our family and neighborhoods safe?

    I remember visiting a small town in Romania maybe seven years ago that was surrounded by farm fields, many overgrown with weeds because they lay fallow. The adult men were all off in Western European to work at slave wages on construction sites, the women were left at home with the children, living on the money their men sent home.

    The teenage kids all whined about there not being anything to do in the town and they all wanted to leave for the big cities. I remember telling them, “Look at all those empty fields just waiting to be worked!” No, field work was too hard for them, they wanted to work in a discotheque.

    The really old people, though, invited us into their simple, but neat homes, served us free range eggs, fresh cheese made from sheep’s milk, garden-grown vegetables and wine made from the grapes hanging from the vines shading their courtyards. “Does life really have to be any better than this?” I thought as I sat at their table, eating that wonderful food and drinking that delicious wine.

    I hope we can find our way back to an honest way of life. I fear those old Romanians may not be around anymore to show us how.

  2. Hi Janaia,

    I thought the Quinn essay was well done, his foretelling of the next decade or so very probable. I’d take exception to a few minor points: first, Obama. I don’t think he’s the youngest of the boomers. I think he’s the oldest of the rangers, the first of his generation to take presidential leadership. He is not the Clinton culture warrior, the Bush either or fanaticist, but cool, pragmatic, concerned primarily with getting the job done. Strauss and Howe label these qualities pure ranger. Second, the crisis turning. I’d suggest it was not 9-11. Bush Corp tried to turn it into the crisis they needed/wanted, and used to to promote invasion and war in the middle east, Patriot Act, etc, but there are many indications that 9-11 was a produced event for which the director’s booth may not have been a cave in Afghanistan. I do believe the Fourth Turning has begun but the crisis milestone event was the Chernobyl like meltdown of the US and World Economy in September 2008. I believe it is fortuitous that we have a “ranger” at the helm for the first years of this crisis, although Obama has surrounded himself with some of the worst “boomers” in his cabinet i.e. Clinton, Gates, Holbrooke and their devotees i.e. Geithner (mentored by Kissinger), etc. It’s going to be a rough ride and for those of us who are boomers Strauss and Howe have some sobering thoughts for governing our participation in this next 20 years, our elder cycle. I wrote some of my thoughts about this here last April.

    Best, Don Hynes

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