WELCOME TO THE FOURTH TURNING
“An impasse over the federal budget reaches a stalemate. The president and Congress both refuse to back down, triggering a near-total government shutdown. The president declares emergency powers. Congress rescinds his authority. Dollar and bond prices plummet. The president threatens to stop Social Security checks. Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling. Default looms. Wall Street panics.”
The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – Page 273 – Written in 1996
“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe
“Imagine some national (and probably global) volcanic eruption, initially flowing along channels of distress that were created during the Unraveling era and further widened by the catalyst. Trying to foresee where the eruption will go once it bursts free of the channels is like trying to predict the exact fault line of an earthquake. All you know in advance is something about the molten ingredients of the climax, which could include the following:
- Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation)
- Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities
- Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders
- Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction”
The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe
Strauss & Howe provide four possible outcomes to our current Crisis:
This Fourth Turning could mark the end of man. It could be an omnicidal Armageddon, destroying everything, leaving nothing. If mankind ever extinguishes itself, this will probably happen when its dominant civilization triggers a Fourth Turning that ends horribly. For this Fourth Turning to put an end to all this would require an extremely unlikely blend of social disaster, human malevolence, technological perfection and bad luck.
The Fourth Turning could mark the end of modernity. The Western saecular rythm – which began in the mid-fifteenth century with the Renaissance – could come to an abrupt terminus. The seventh modern saeculum would be the last. This too could come from total war, terrible but not final. There could be a complete collapse of science, culture, politics, and society. Such a dire result would probably happen only when a dominant nation (like today’s America) lets a Fourth Turning ekpyrosis engulf the planet. But this outcome is well within the reach of foreseeable technology and malevolence.
The Fourth Turning could spare modernity but mark the end of our nation. It could close the book on the political constitution, popular culture, and moral standing that the word America has come to signify. The nation has endured for three saecula; Rome lasted twelve, the Soviet Union only one. Fourth Turnings are critical thresholds for national survival. Each of the last three American Crises produced moments of extreme danger: In the Revolution, the very birth of the republic hung by a thread in more than one battle. In the Civil War, the union barely survived a four-year slaughter that in its own time was regarded as the most lethal war in history. In World War II, the nation destroyed an enemy of democracy that for a time was winning; had the enemy won, America might have itself been destroyed. In all likelihood, the next Crisis will present the nation with a threat and a consequence on a similar scale.
Or the Fourth Turning could simply mark the end of the Millennial Saeculum. Mankind, modernity, and America would all persevere. Afterward, there would be a new mood, a new High, and a new saeculum. America would be reborn. But, reborn, it would not be the same.