Ever hear of generational theory?


I’m feeling off lately. I’m getting surgery next month, home life is chaotic, and the slow pace of writing is frustrating me. Not to mention the fact that the news seems so depressing these days. Talks of truce between the Ukraine and Russia but people don’t have faith it will last. An Arizona woman recently killed in the whole ISIS mess. And don’t forget cyberterrorism!

Generational theory (first outlined by Howe and Straus) says that there are four “Turnings” in a cycle that covers four generations, or about eighty years. Each generation is shaped by the circumstances of their birth, and also affects the generations following them. Trends swing back and forth during the span of this cycle, from a more restrictive, controlling society to a looser, more permissive one. Each cycle begins with a more stable, conservative “High,” then a cultural “Awakening,” a turbulent “Unraveling” and finally a “Crisis” which resolves to start another High and another cycle.

Right now, according to Howe, we’re in the 4th Turning. This Turning is when the big events occur–the last 4th Turning started with the Great Depression and extended through World War II.  The 4th Turning before that was the Civil War, at least for the U.S. And the 4th Turning before that was the Revolution.

So having read a lot about this, I listen to the news and wonder if the next big conflict is about to begin. There’s Europe and the threat of economic collapse, and Russia trying casually take back the Ukraine. That mirrors pre-World War II Third Reich a little closer than I’m comfortable with. Then there’s the Middle East, particularly Syria. One extremist group may not be able to draw the whole world into a conflagration, but they’re certainly pissing off quite a few countries. Somehow it feels like more than sabre rattling this time. I guess only time will tell.

Perhaps it’s the writer in me that listens to these stories and imagines the larger story of it all, feeling like society has been moving through Act II for some time and is gearing up for Act III and a giant climax. That all the economic struggles, the political struggles, the environmental struggles will all suddenly crash down on us. Maybe to be resolved.

Or not.

One response to “Ever hear of generational theory?

  1. With any luck we can learn from past mistakes more in this generation than in any previous one. I also how you feel better soon.

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