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...Does anyone here know more about this cyclical theory of history? What do you think of it? This article
presents a different opinion.
Cyclical models of history are something academics kick around every now and then, said Sean Wilentz, an American history professor at Princeton University. But the idea has not caught on among historians or political actors.
“It’s just a conceit. It’s a fiction, it’s all made up,” Wilentz said about cyclical historical models. “There’s nothing to them. They’re just inventions.”
Michael Lind, a historian and co-founder of the New America Foundation, a liberal think tank, has called Strauss and Howe’s work “pseudoscience” and said their “predictions about the American future turn out to be as vague as those of fortune cookies.”
~~~President Trump wants to put on a show. Governing matters less.
Last spring, while reporting The Washington Post’s biography of Donald Trump, I asked an executive who had worked for Trump for more than three decades to help me understand a central contradiction about the man: How could he be at once the micromanager who in the 1980s would call an employee at 2 a.m. and order her out of bed to clean up litter he’d noticed in the lobby of one of his buildings, and also the boss who was so detached that he claimed to be ignorant of his hotels’ finances as they fell into bankruptcy?
The executive offered this guidance: “If you’re ever confused about Trump’s motives, go to showman first.” The building lobby was a showcase for the Trump brand, requiring the close attention of the man behind the name; the finances were backstage stuff, easily ignored.Where did Steve Bannon get his worldview? From my book.
Beyond ideology, I think there’s another reason for the rising interest in our book. We reject the deep premise of modern Western historians that social time is either linear (continuous progress or decline) or chaotic (too complex to reveal any direction). Instead we adopt the insight of nearly all traditional societies: that social time is a recurring cycle in which events become meaningful only to the extent that they are what philosopher Mircea Eliade calls “reenactments.” In cyclical space, once you strip away the extraneous accidents and technology, you are left with only a limited number of social moods, which tend to recur in a fixed order.
Along this cycle, we can identify four “turnings” that each last about 20 years — the length of a generation. Think of these as recurring seasons, starting with spring and ending with winter. In every turning, a new generation is born and each older generation ages into its next phase of life.
The cycle begins with the First Turning, a “High” which comes after a crisis era. In a High, institutions are strong and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectively, even if many feel stifled by the prevailing conformity. Many Americans alive today can recall the post-World War II American High (historian William O’Neill’s term), coinciding with the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies. Earlier examples are the post-Civil War Victorian High of industrial growth and stable families, and the post-Constitution High of Democratic Republicanism and Era of Good Feelings.
The Second Turning is an “Awakening,” when institutions are attacked in the name of higher principles and deeper values. Just when society is hitting its high tide of public progress, people suddenly tire of all the social discipline and want to recapture a sense of personal authenticity. Salvation by faith, not works, is the youth rallying cry. One such era was the Consciousness Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s. Some historians call this America’s Fourth or Fifth Great Awakening, depending on whether they start the count in the 17th century with John Winthrop or the 18th century with Jonathan Edwards.
The Third Turning is an “Unraveling,” in many ways the opposite of the High. Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Third Turning decades such as the 1990s, the 1920s and the 1850s are notorious for their cynicism, bad manners and weak civic authority. Government typically shrinks, and speculative manias, when they occur, are delirious.
Finally, the Fourth Turning is a “Crisis” period. This is when our institutional life is reconstructed from the ground up, always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. If history does not produce such an urgent threat, Fourth Turning leaders will invariably find one — and may even fabricate one — to mobilize collective action. Civic authority revives, and people and groups begin to pitch in as participants in a larger community. As these Promethean bursts of civic effort reach their resolution, Fourth Turnings refresh and redefine our national identity. The years 1945, 1865 and 1794 all capped eras constituting new “founding moments” in American history.
Just as a Second Turning reshapes our inner world (of values, culture and religion), a Fourth Turning reshapes our outer world (of politics, economy and empire)