Strauss–Howe generational theory  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Generations (ISBN 0-688-11912-3) (1991) is the first book by William Strauss and Neil Howe that describes a cyclical theory of history based on repeating generational archetypes. It examines Anglo-American history by dividing it into saecula, or seasonal cycles of history. A saeculum is about 90 years long - the length of a long human life - and is further divided into four "Turnings" that are about 22 years long - as long as the period between birth and adulthood. Children raised during a particular Turning share similar historical and cultural experiences, resulting in distinct generational types. The book suggests that interactions between generations explains why major crises occur roughly every 90 years (e.g. 1773 - 1861) and why spiritual awakenings similarly recur halfway between those crises.

Although Generations and related books are occasionally referenced in scholarly articles, some scholars do not find the theory compelling.

Contents

Turnings

According to Howe and Strauss, just as history molds generations, so do generations mold history. Modern Anglo-American history runs on a two-stroke rhythm. The two strokes are an Awakening and a Crisis.

Awakening. During an Awakening, rising adults are driven by inner zeal to become philosophers, religious pundits, and hippies, thereby alienating children (who see the adult world becoming more chaotic each day) and older generations alike. Civil order comes under attack from a new values regime. Examples of Awakening eras include the Protestant Reformation (1517-1542), the Puritan Awakening (1621-1649), the Great Awakening (1727-1746), the Second Great Awakening (1822-1844), the Third Great Awakening (1886-1908), and the Consciousness Revolution (1964-1984). Seen as a tumultuous time, somewhat echoing a "Crisis".

Unraveling. An Unraveling is an era of relative peace and prosperity between an Awakening and a Crisis. The most recent Unraveling was seen between The Consciousness Revolution and the time just before September 11 (1985-2001), a time of paradigm shifting. Seen as a positive time, somewhat echoing a "High".

Crisis. A Crisis is a decisive era of secular upheaval. The values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. Wars are waged with apocalyptic finality. Examples of Crisis eras include the Wars of the Roses (1459-1487), the Spanish Armada Crisis (1569-1594), the colonial Glorious Revolution (1675-1704), the American Revolution (1773-1794), the American Civil War (1860-1865), and the twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II (1929-1946).

High. A High is an era between a Crisis and an Awakening. The most recent High was seen between World War II and the Consciousness Revolution.

Types of Generations

Generations

The four types of generations in their theory are as follows:

Prophet/Idealist. A Prophet (or Idealist) generation is born during a High, spends its rising adult years during an Awakening, spends midlife during an Unraveling, and spends old age in a Crisis. Prophetic leaders have been cerebral and principled, summoners of human sacrifice, wagers of righteous wars. Early in life, few saw combat in uniform; late in life, most come to be revered as much for their words as for their deeds.

Nomad/Reactive. A Nomad (or Reactive) generation is born during an Awakening, spends its rising adult years during an Unraveling, spends midlife during a Crisis, and spends old age in a new High. Nomadic leaders have been cunning, hard-to-fool realists, taciturn warriors who prefer to meet problems and adversaries one-on-one.

Hero/Civic. A Hero (or Civic) generation is born during an Unraveling, spends its rising adult years during a Crisis, spends midlife during a High, and spends old age in an Awakening. Heroic leaders are considered to have been vigorous and rational institution-builders, busy and competent in old age. All of them entering midlife were aggressive advocates of technological progress, economic prosperity, social harmony, and public optimism.

Artist/Adaptive. An Artist (or Adaptive) generation is born during a Crisis, spends its rising adult years in a new High, spends midlife in an Awakening, and spends old age in an Unraveling. Artistic leaders have been advocates of fairness and the politics of inclusion, irrepressible in the wake of failure.

List of Generations

Howe and Strauss characterize generations and their types as follows:

Generation Type Birth years Formative era
Late Medieval Saeculum
Arthurian Generation Hero (Civic) 1433–1460 (27) Unraveling: Retreat from France
Humanist Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1461–1482 (21) Crisis: War of the Roses
Reformation Saeculum (104)
Reformation Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1483–1511 (28) High: Tudor Renaissance
Reprisal Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1512–1540 (28) Awakening: Protestant Reformation
Elizabethan Generation Hero (Civic) 1541–1565 (24) Unraveling: Intolerance and Martyrdom
Parliamentarian Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1566–1587 (21)Crisis: Armada Crisis
New World Saeculum (112)
Puritan Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1588–1617 (29)High: Merrie England
Cavalier Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1618–1647 (29)Awakening: Puritan Awakening
Glorious Generation Hero (Civic) 1648–1673 (25)Unraveling: Religious Intolerance
Enlightenment Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1674–1700 (26)Crisis: King Philip's War/
Glorious Revolution
Revolutionary Saeculum (90)
Awakening Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1701–1723 (22) High: Augustan Age of Empire
Liberty Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1724–1741 (17) Awakening: Great Awakening
Republican Generation Hero (Civic) 1742–1766 (24) Unraveling: French and Indian War
Compromise Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1767–1791 (24)Crisis: American Revolution
Civil War Saeculum (67)
Transcendental Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1792–1821 (29)High: Era of Good Feeling
Gilded Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1822–1842 (20)Awakening: Transcendental Awakening
Hero (Civic)0
Progressive Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1843–1859 (16)Crisis: American Civil War
Great Power Saeculum (82)
Missionary Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1860–1882 (22)High: Reconstruction/Gilded Age
Lost Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1883–1900 (17)Awakening: Missionary Awakening
G.I. Generation Hero (Civic) 1901–1924 (23)Unraveling: World War I/Prohibition
Silent Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1925–1942 (17)Crisis: Great Depression/World War II
Millennial Saeculum (67+)
(Baby) Boom Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1943–1960 (17) High: Superpower America
13th Generation
(a.k.a Generation X)1
Nomad (Reactive) 1961–1981 (20) Awakening: Consciousness Revolution
Millennial Generation2 Hero (Civic) 1982–2000 (18)Unraveling: Culture Wars
Homeland Generation 34 Artist (Adaptive) 2001–present (10+) Crisis: Second Cold War

Note (0): According to the above chart, generational types have appeared in Anglo-American history in a fixed order for more than 500 years, with one hiccup in the Civil War Saeculum. The reasons for this is because according to the chart, the Civil War came about ten years too early; the adult generations allowed the worst aspects of their generational personalities to come through; and the Progressives grew up scarred rather than ennobled.

Note (1): Strauss and Howe use the name "13th Generation" instead of the more widely accepted "Generation X" in their book, which was published mere weeks before Douglas Coupland's Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture was. The generation is so numbered because it is the thirteenth generation alive since American Independence (counting back until Benjamin Franklin's).

Note (2): Although there is as yet no universally accepted name for this generation, "Millennials" is becoming widely accepted. Other names used in reference to it include Generation Y (as it is the generation following Generation X) and "The Net Generation." Another name "Generation Next" stems from a Pepsi-Cola corporation ad campaign featuring one symbol of Generation Y, the Spice Girls. Template:Citation needed

Note (3): New Silent Generation was a proposed holding name used by Howe and Strauss in their demographic history of America, Generations, to describe the generation whose birth years began somewhere in the early 2000s and the ending point will be around the early 2020s. Howe now refers to this generation (most likely currently being born) as the Homeland Generation.

Note (4): There is no consistent agreement among participants on the Fourth Turning message board that the War on Terror lies fully within a Crisis era. The absence of any attempt to constrict consumer spending through taxes or rationing and the tax cuts of the time suggest that any Crisis Era may have begun, if at all, later, as after Hurricane Katrina or the Financial Meltdown of 2008.

See also




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