Hat tip to Thinker for noticing Neil Howe’s 1st blog post in over a year. He’s dated the start of this Fourth Turning as September 2008. That is 82 years after the end of the last Fourth Turning. That is the length of an average human life. I would agree with his assessment, though you could argue that the series of events leading to September 2008 began with Bear Stearns in 2007. We are only four years into this Fourth Turning. Think about how bad the last four years have been and wrap your mind around the fact that things will get much worse before this Crisis ends around 2028. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around when the regeneracy would start and what could possibly bring the country together. The country is as divided as I’ve ever seen at this point. Neil thinks another financial crisis or geopolitical event will lead to regeneracy.

I would agree that a combination of war, monetary collapse, and derivatives spreading wealth destruction across the Western world will lead to sides being chosen. At this point, I see a greater likelihood of a Civil War (ala 1860) than a country rallying behind the President to fight a foreign foe. I think it is time to take Neil’s thoughts and write a new article pondering the regeneracy possibilities and likelihoods. Now I have something to do next weekend.

Thanks to Neil for starting his blog up again.

Dating the Fourth Turning

This is called a preemptive posting.  If there’s ever a question I get asked a lot, it’s this: When did the Fourth Turning start?  So rather than wait for someone to ask again, let’s get right to it.

Readers of The Fourth Turning already know that 4Ts in history are dated and internally subdivided into stages by four critical events.  The first event, the catalyst, triggers or starts the 4T.  It is “a startling event (or sequence of events) that produces a sudden shift in mood.” The second, the regeneracy, marks the beginning of “a new counter-entropy that reunifies and re-energizes civic life.” The third, the climax, is “a crucial moment that confirms the death of the old order and triumph of the new.”  The fourth is the resolution, “a triumphant or tragic conclusion that separates winners from losers, resolves the big public questions, and establishes the new order.”

So to ask when the current 4T began is to ask, when was the catalyst?

Pending stunning new developments, I believe the catalyst occurred in 2008.  It’s a date that is looking better and better as time goes by.  The year 2008 marked the onset of the most serious U.S. economic crisis since the Great Depression.  It also marked the election of Barack Obama, which could yet turn out to be a pivotal realignment date in U.S. political history.

Let’s look at each of these separately.  First, the economy.  Yes, the U.S. recession technically started in December of 2007, but neither the public nor the market felt it until the spring and summer of the following year.  In fact, if I had to give the catalyst a month, I would say September of 2008.  The global Dow was in free fall.  Banks were failing.  Money markets froze shut.  Business owners held their breath.  Thankfully, America’s leaders succeeded in avoiding a depression by means of a massive liquidity infusion and fiscal stimulus policies whose multi-trillion-dollar magnitude has literally no precedent in history.  Today, for the time being, the U.S. economy seems safe again, though to be sure it has emerged weaker and more fragile—and certainly more leveraged—than it was before.

Yet at the time, behind closed doors, many of America’s top leaders believed that they were skirting the edge of a catastrophe that could have exceeded 1932 in its destructive potential.  And they were probably right.  Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson later recounted (in On the Brink) that in the last two weeks of September, 2008, they were only “days away” from “economic collapse, another Great Depression, and 25 percent unemployment.”  At one Thursday-evening meeting, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke famously urged legislators to “break the glass” and pass a bailout package with the simple admonition: “If we don’t do this, we may not have an economy on Monday.”

And, to add even greater edge to this catalyst, we were at that time just six weeks away from the election of Barack Obama, who brought a new party to power and was America’s first African-American President.  Would he have won without the meltdown?  Who knows.  It would have been a much closer election.  Yet as time goes by, we may see something more important in the 2008 election—how it may mark the beginning of a new political realignment.  Admittedly, it’s still too early to say.  Obama’s approval ratings are still relatively low, and the GOP—though showing deep fissures and light turnouts in this year’s primaries—may still experience a resurgence.  This is a call that will be much easier to make a year or two from now.

People have asked me how confident I am about 2008.  All I can say is, the catalyst has to be sometime around 2008 given the generational dividing lines.  As a rule, a new turning starts a few years (typically 2 to 6) after each living generation (especially the new youth generation) enters a new phase of life.  2008 was 4 to 6 years after the oldest Millennials reached age 21 and graduated from college—and 3 years after the oldest Boomers (born in 1943) started to receive their first Social Security retirement checks.  In terms of phase of life, this is right on.

On the other hand, 2001 was too early—and Bill and I repeatedly explained this to many readers who once told us that 9/11 “must be” the catalyst.  We agreed that the mood shift was sudden and dramatic.  But we pointed out that it the living generations were simply too young: The oldest Millennials, for example, were barely college sophomores.  As time passed—and as the Greenspan bubble welled up under the U.S. economy and as public disillusionment set in over the U.S. invasion of Iraq—our initial doubt was justified.  9/11 will go down as one of the more famous crisis precursors in American history.  A crisis precursor is an event that foreshadows a crisis without being an integral part of it.  Other such precursors in American history include the Stamp Act Rebellion (1765), or Bleeding Kansas (1856), or perhaps the Red Scare (1919).  Incidentally, the media did several retrospectives on the 1919-20 bombings in the wake of 9/11—since they represented, prior to 9/11, the most destructive act of political terrorism by foreigners ever attempted on U.S. soil.

OK.  Now let’s move on to the next question: Where is the regeneracy?

I think it’s pretty obvious that the regeneracy has not yet started.  So how long do we need to wait for it?  And how will we know when it starts?  Those are good questions.  I recently went back over The Fourth Turning to recall how we dated the stages of the each of the historical 4Ts.  And I found that we were very explicit about dating the other three stages (catalyst, climax, and resolution) for each 4T.  But we were always a bit vague about dating the regeneracy, treating it more like an era than a date.  There is a reason for this.  We may like to imagine that there is a definable day and hour when America, faced by growing danger and adversity, explicitly decides to patch over its differences, band together, and build something new.  But maybe what really happens is that everyone feels so numb that they let somebody in charge just go ahead and do whatever he’s got to do.  I’m thinking of how America felt during the bleak years of FDR’s first term, or during Lincoln’s assumption of vast war powers after his repeated initial defeats on the battlefield.

The regeneracy cannot always be identified with a single news event.  But it does have to mark the beginning of a growth in centralized authority and decisive leadership at a time of great peril and urgency.  Typically, the catalyst itself doesn’t lead directly to a regeneracy.  There has to be a second or third blow, something that seems a lot more perilous than just the election of third-party candidate (Civil War catalyst) or a very bad month in the stock market (Great Power catalyst).

We are still due for such a moment.  We have not yet reached our regeneracy.  When it happens, I strongly suspect it will be in response to an adverse financial event.  It may also happen in response to a geopolitical event.  It may well happen over the next year or two.  Given the pattern of historical 4Ts, it is very likely happen before the end of the next presidential term (2016).  Which means we already know who will be President at that time: Either Obama or Romney.  (Or at least this is high probability: According to Intrade, it is now over a 96 percent bet, so if you disagree you can make 25-to-1 by betting against global future traders.)  It’s interesting that both men are temperamentally similar—cool, detatched, capable of gravitas–and that one could imagine either playing a Gray Champion role if history required it.  It’s also worth noting that Romney is the only GOP candidate who could steal a sizable share of the Millennial vote that would otherwise go to Obama.  (Romney has consistently done better in the GOP primaries with voters under 30; Santorum and Gingrich with voters over 50.)

Next question: When will the 4T climax take place?  To be honest, I have no idea.  On timing, let me toss out my guess based on the typical pattern of historical 4Ts: The climax may arrive around 2022-2025.

And when will the resolution occur and the entire 4T come to a close?  Again, there is no way to know.  If the 4T turns out to be of average length, I would say 2026-29.  At that time, an entire saeculum will draw to a close.  And the first turning of a new saeculum will commence.

Let me add one more thought.  Bill and I once explained the dynamic of seasonal turnings by applying a four-fold typology of social states invented by Talcott Parsons.  It seemed to work pretty well.  Parsons said that each state was defined by the demand and supply for social order, each of which could be high or low.  So here are how the four turnings may be defined:

Demand for Order        Supply of Order

1T     High                            High

2T     Low                             High

3T     Low                             Low

4T     High                            Low

The point here being that 4Ts are pretty chaotic.  During 4Ts, the future seems much less certain than in retrospect.  They are mostly defined not so much by how much institutions provide order, but by how much people want order.  Here’s where the Millennials will play a key role.



  1. The regeneracy starts on April 1st.

    Take out your cash. Accumulate food. Store water. Buy toilet paper. Then kiss your ass good bye.

    April 1st. I’m not kidding.

  2. He who says things in my name is a piece of shit and knows it. Not a good idea to pull a frankinsubstitute on old MA..


  3. Muck

    I understand your point about cash, food, and water.

    But I think you’re over the top regarding toilet paper. Also, you’re too dogmatic about April 1st. It could happen on April 2nd, right? Whatever. Awesome tips! Thanks.

  4. Things that make you say ….. “WTF ????!!”

    As of yet, unverified. Nevertheless, WTF??

    And it’s not even April 1st yet.


    COUP IN BEIJING, Says Chinese Internet Rumor Mill

    Epoch Times Staff
    Created: March 20, 2012

    Over the night of March 19 and early morning of March 20, Bejing local time, a message about a large number of military police showing up in Beijing spread widely across microblogs in mainland China.

    The key figures in the action are said to be: Hu Jintao, the head of the CCP; Wen Jiabao, the premier; Zhou Yongkang, who has control of the People’s Republic of China’s police forces; and Bo Xilai, who was dismissed from his post as head of the Chongqing City Communist Party on March 15 by Wen Jiabao, after a scandal involving Bo’s former police chief.

    Li Delin, who is on the editorial board of Securities Market Weekly and lives in Dongcheng District of Beijing, wrote on his microblog a report that confirmed unusual troop movements: “There are numerous army vehicles, Changan Street is continuously being controlled. There are many plainclothes police in every intersection, and some intersections even had iron fences set up.”

    According to the message that went viral on China’s Internet, a military force with unknown designation quickly occupied many important places in Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound in Beijing, and Beijing in the early morning of March 20, with the cooperation of Beijing armed police.

    The troops entered Beijing to “get and protect Bo Xilai,” according to the message.

    A mainland Chinese reader has told The Epoch Times that a military coup has taken place in Beijing.

    It is still unknown who, if anyone, has been arrested.

    The message claims Zhou Yongkang first used armed police force in an attempt to arrest Hu and Wen. However, Hu and Wen had been prepared and Zhou’s coup was subdued, though rumors of Hu and Wen being arrested had been spread earlier.

    The message says that now both sides, Hu and Wen on one side, and Jiang Zemin and Zhou Yongkang on the other, are mobilizing armed forces. However, only Hu Jintao can mobilize the regular army, which he still controls, according to the message.

    The message also claims that forces directed by Zhou Yongkang had taken control over CCTV and the Xinhua News Agency, but that the regular army under the command of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao had since taken back control of the news outlets.

    The news column on Xinhua’s website was all foreign news from 11 p.m. on March 19 to at least 8 a.m. on March 20, with not a single piece of domestic news—which is quite unusual.

    One netizen posted on microblog: “Strange! Except Beijing Television, no other television in Beijing is broadcasting. This is very strange!!! It had never happened before.”

    However, Beijing state-controlled media have observed that imposing a curfew on Changan Street is quite normal, as the North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho is seeing Wu Dawei, the People’s Republic of China’s special representative for Korean affairs, and had made a rare advance appointment with media to give a speech outside the east entrance of Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

    Beijing media has also noted that the China Development Forum is closing, with guests from across the country leaving after the forum. For these reasons, Beijing media said there are many police on Changan Street, and taxis are not allowed to stop next to the airport terminal building.

    The Epoch Times is at present trying to verify the messages


  5. Admin worried about what llpoh and stuck think. I didn’t tell Muck who it was. You dimed yourself out you dimwit.


  6. Mwah? A dimwit? I beg to differ.

    “It’s who you would expect. The resident TBP prankster.” — Admin

    Well that pretty much fuckin narrows in down to ONE person, eh, Einstein??

    On a more positive note, Drexel is kicking some Umass ass right now!!

  7. I believe the catalyst occurred in 2008 -NH

    I think it started in 2000 with the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.

  8. Yeah, stuckinshit…. Try and change the subject to weasel out of it. No deal.. I hold grudges and am very patient.. ‘


  9. As far as the Chinese coup? I now go forth and try and find something about it. Sounds like a fun days are here again..

    Just remember that doppelgängers evaporate in their own spit ..


  10. My admininstration has never approved doppleganging. Admin cannot actually prove I did it. So, I didn’t do it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, regardless of any perceived self-incrimination previously stated.

    Yes, the Chiinese story is worth further research. You’re the man for the job. I can’t because Ms Freud is about ready to cut my nuts off cuz I’ve been on the ‘puter all day … and flowers won’t do the trick.

    Jim, nevermind about Drexel kicking ass. UMass ust took the lead. So solly.

  11. Of course I already had posted Neil’s blog entry when I asked his permission to post it. Here’s his response:

    NeilHowe wrote, in response to jimqui:

    Jim: Of course you can repost. You are a thunderous 4T ambassador. Your prophecies make me tremble a bit, like the poetry of Ossian. Invite your readers here from time to time. They will be welcome.

    Now that Neil is blogging again, you can learn a lot about the Fourth Turning if you frequent his blog. It is on the favorites list on the right side of the page. Here is a link:


    He already has a new posting this morning.

  12. Thinker

    I’ll have to work some of his stuff into my next article. It says Jefferson and Goethe were big fans.


  13. I’m stoked Howe’s back on his blog!

    I also have come to grips that ’08 may have been the start, but the cycle may be stretched a little.

    Society remains polarized, and I see “unravelling” traits in every shadow.

    Crisis that will make a credit crunch look like cheese cake is right around the corner… then it’s off to the marches.

  14. This is an excellent post. Thanks for sharing. One of the few bits of good news is the retrun of NH to blogging.
    If it’s 2022 to reach the climax and 2028 to resolve it, I’ll be 6 y/o when it’s done, if I’m still around. That’s just about the end of the most- productive years of a Nomad who may have been called upon to help the Grey Champions clean up the mess.
    If it is 2022-8, maybe it goes like this: Romney wins, serves one term, and fails to fix things, or perhaps makes them worse. He’s replaced by Hillary, a la Louis XVIII, as the Dems neither forget nor learn anything. Rand Paul would be a second-term Senator and perhaps positioned then to be the one to lead us back. If Obama wins, perhaps it’s Rand in 2016.
    Alternately, one of the Democrats Straus & Howe identified as a potential Grey Champion – James Webb – may be the one to replace Romney and start the regenerecy. Webb’s a tough guy who could lead in a crisis involving war, and he has a populist bent, so a campaign along Jacksonian lines wouldn’t be unimaginible. If nothing else, it;’s fascinating to think about.
    More importantly, the idea that we’re not yet at the bottom ought to reinvigorate all of us to prepare while we can.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.