The Fourth Turning

I picked up a used copy of The Fourth Turning (1997) as I had read some reviews, positive and negative, and for the price figured it was worth it. I won’t go into the entire premise of the book, as the reviews on Amazon give a good overview, but I find the recommendations from 1997 to prepare for the predicted crisis in the first decade of the millennium (now) most interesting:

Once the Crisis catalyzes, anything can happen. If you are starting a career now, realize that generalists with survival know-how will have the edge over specialists whose skills are useful only in an undamaged environment. Be fluent in as many languages, cultures, and technologies as you can. Your business will face a total alteration of market conditions: Expect public subsidies to vanish, the regulatory environment to change quickly, and new trade barriers to arise. Avoid debt or leverage investments, including massive student debt. Assume that all your external safety nets (pensions, Social Security, Medicare) could end up totally shredded.

Related to my post of the Cuspers going into small business are some recommendations for this generation (AKA: 13ers):

The Fourth Turning will find other generations with lives either mostly in the past or mostly in the future, but it will catch 13ers in “prime time”, right at the midpoint of their adult lives. They must step forward as the saeculum’s repair generation, the one stuck with fixing the messes and cleaning up the debris left by others.

President Obama campaigned on this fact and even Prime Minister Harper has had to discard some of his conservative principles and get down to the messy job of repair. Both are members of this generation. The Crisis is here and there’s lots of work for all of us to do.

6 Responses to “The Fourth Turning”

  1. Jon Husband

    I first read The Fourth Turning about a decade ago, and have re-read it several times over the past decade.

    I still chuckle when thinking about when I recommended it to Dave Pollard. he read it, and wrote a blog post about how he got so mad that he “threw it against the wall”, disliking it intensely since he thought it was trying to be (in his words) “a prophecy”.

    He’s since come around 😉

    Heavy-handed writing style, but very interesting premise, very comprehensive research, a damned good track record so far and IMO good advice in the last couple of chapters.

    For the record< i don’t think 911 or the ciurrent economic crisis are “the trigger”. but I think we are clearly in the late stages of “The Unravelling”. I suspect we will find that all the current efforts to deny reality and re-inflate the credit-driven bubble will take us into the real triggering crisis the book suggests or prophesizes 😉 that we will have to confront.

  2. Virginia Yonkers

    So far all the “languages, cultures, and technologies” that I am fluent in has not helped me a lick! In fact, I am repeatedly told that I don’t have correct skills for this economy (I need to be a math or science specialist) and that my background is too broad. I just hope that that changes soon also!

  3. Sabastian Curry

    The Fourth Turning is a general view of the cyclical theory of human systems. It has to do with thermodynamics and the build up and reduction of the energy in the system. Humans do not have control over the cycles, and socialism is not the answer. In fact liberal socialism is what causes the downturn as society is looted, afterwhich “honest” workers must come in and fix what decadence caused.

  4. Tory W

    To Sebastian Curry, if you are referring to liberal socialism in the context of social programs (infrastructural building, social programs, etc), this in fact is part of the cause the highs that are referred to in the book (i.e. – we can do anything, social order, etc.). Now, if you were to have said “social liberalism”…, well that’s the first sign of an unraveling. However, the piousness of those former social liberals (the current bible bangers) pushes us right on in to crisis. I think in part this is due to a guilty conscience. You know…, sort of when politicians and ministers preach piety and fidelity and then turn around and get caught with gay hookers or trying to get head in a airport bathroom.

  5. Benjamin Baxter

    I found their research to be broadly generalized if not inaccurate, especially the further their history goes back. They understand the Boomers marvelously, but everyone else is a caricature perversely molded to fit their hypothesis, or appropriately vague like a barely applicable horoscope. This especially includes Victorian generations and those before them,

    I knew it was a poor sign when the authors’ biographies included such tidbits as the number of volumes previous works had sold, rather than any worthwhile academic work.

  6. Harold Jarche

    I agree that it’s not sound science, just an interesting idea that can start some conversations and allow you to look at things differently. I wouldn’t base on my business model on this book, Benjamin.


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