The Fourth Turning

Tallal’s Tips

A Publication by Joseph (Jody) Tallal, Jr.
Volume XX, Number 1
April 15, 2006

A review of the book, The Fourth Turning; An American Prophecy, written by William Strauss and Neil Howe

Over the last few years, I have observed a significant difference in the way people are feeling about their future. This foreboding feeling is running across generational boundaries, with 25 year-olds reporting similar feelings as the 65 year-olds. As a Personal Financial Manager with 35 years of experience, I have not witnessed this phenomenon before.

Please take a moment and ask yourself how you feel about you and your family’s future, ten to twenty years from now. Do you have confidence in what our country is doing in the world and how others perceive us? What about how things are going right here at home? Does the economy feel secure to you and the political situation grounded? What about social security, immigrations, health care, Home Land Security, etc. In your opinion, are these issues being addressed to your satisfaction?

If you feel all is well and your future looks secure and bright, then this issue may not be of much interest to you. On the other hand, if the above questions leave you with an unsettling feeling, then you will most probably find this edition of prime importance.

Several years ago, a good friend of mine told me about a book he had just read concerning historical cycles which contained a logical explanation as to why they continue to occur. The name of the book is The Fourth Turning; An American Prophecy, written by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Over the next few years I thought about getting that book, but never found the time. However, the concepts my friend had explained to me at lunch that day continued to intrigue me. Finally, about 9 months ago, I bought a copy of the book. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down until I was finished.

What follows is my attempt to provide you a short synopsis of the book with the hope that it will stimulate you to read it. The book was written in 1997; therefore, we now have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight to see how well its predications are holding up. When I read the book in mid 2005, the uncanny accuracy of these predictions was extremely unsettling.

Interestingly enough, The Fourth Turning is not so much about predictions of the future as it is a historical documentation of the past. The identification of the historical cycles of war, economics and major shifts in world powers has been identified many times throughout history. The Old Testament, Homer, Khaldum, Toynbee, and Huntington are just a few that have discussed such cycles.

Toynbee took it a step further by asserting the “Cycles of War” were the results of “generational types” interacting with each other, within the same society. Toynbee felt the reason major wars occur in periodic cycles was a result of how people of different ages experienced them. The soldiers of the last major war became reluctant to choose war as a solution to future conflicts, as did the elder leaders that declared that war in the first place. However, when enough time had past that the new leaders of the society had no personal memory of the last war, war once again became a viable option to resolve conflicts.

What the Fourth Turning adds to the above aforementioned cyclical theories is a careful analysis of the generational cycles that continue to unfold like seasons throughout history. Consider the premise that children born during a war develop life-long attitudes and feelings that filter their later perceptions of everything. As children, they grow up in a world filled with great fear and uncertainty. Similarly, look at a child born during a period of peace and prosperity. They too are integrating important information about the world around them. However, instead of it being an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, it is more likely to feel more secure and full of promise.

Major events bond generations together. As such, people of a particular generation end up identifying more with their peers, than they do with any other group as a whole. For example, the ‘Baby Boomers’ have an undeniable link that binds them together, as does each other generation before and after them.

We can all remember where we were when President Kennedy was shot, or when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. These are the type of events that galvanize a society, yet they are experienced by each generational group differently, depending on their age and outlook.

The Fourth Turning notes throughout modern history that there is a very distinct pattern that has repeated itself. Approximately every two decades people change how they feel about their country, customs and future. The authors refer to this period as a new “Turning”. Below is an excerpt from Chapter 1, Page 2 of the book which says:

Turnings come in cycles of four. Each cycle spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years; a unit of time the ancients called the saeculum. Together, the four turnings of the saeculum comprise history's seasonal rhythm of growth, maturation, entropy, and destruction:

• The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.

• The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.

• The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when the old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.

• The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one.

The Fourth Turning offers a new theory as to why these historical cycles continue to repeat. It identifies that during the time span of a saeculum (one long life); there are four generations that will be born. The book analyzes in depth the attributes and beliefs of each of the four generations that occur during each saeculum. Some will be born during a war; others will fight it; while others declared it. During it all, each generation will continually interact with the others.

Another interesting phenomenon the book highlights is that each new generations always rebels against the ideals and standards of its parents, as soon as they reach adolescence. This is because they begin to think for themselves. In order to fully mature into the next leaders of their society, they must learn how to assert themselves.

It does not matter whether the parental generation is conservative or liberal, has strong morals or loose, or has rigid standards or not. The children will rebel against the parent’s views as they grow into young adults and attempt to change the world into the way they think it should be. Obviously, as each society experiences a crisis, how it responds to that crisis will depend entirely on which generation is in power, and its world view.

The book explains that these generational interactions are responsible for the four distinct seasons that continue to repeat approximately every hundred years. If a warrior later became the head of state (such as Eisenhower did following World War II) his response to conflict will be entirely different than a leader from a generation who never experienced war. The continual moving of each generation through the four seasons of life (childhood, young adulthood, mature adults, and elders), are what creates the four cycles.

The book compares the four "Turnings" - a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling, and a Crisis, to the four seasons; Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. It also identifies each new generation born during a saeculum by specific characteristics, or archetypes.

Are the individuals of that generation team players or independent; are they conservative or liberal? One generation may have latch-key kids; while the next will not let their children play on a playground for fear that might get a cold from another kid. Below is an excerpt from Chapter 3, Page 84 of the book which better explains these concepts:
A generation is composed of people whose common location in history lends them a collective persona. The span of one generation is roughly the length of a phase of life. Generations come in four archetypes, always in the same order, whose phase-of-life positions comprise a constellation.

When this rhythm is filled out with the full range of historical examples, a four-type cycle of generations emerges. They are listed here beginning with the Prophet archetype - the one born in the saecular spring.

• A Prophet generation grows up as increasingly indulged post Crisis children, comes of age as the narcissistic young crusaders of an Awakening, cultivates principle as moralistic midlifers, and emerges as wise elders guiding the next Crisis.

• A Nomad generation grows up as underprotected children during an Awakening, comes of age as the alienated young adults of a post-Awakening world, mellows into pragmatic midlife leaders during a Crisis, and ages into tough post-Crisis elders.

• A Hero generation grows up as increasingly protected post-Awakening children, comes of age as the heroic young teamworkers of a Crisis, demonstrates hubris as energetic midlifers, and emerges as powerful elders attacked by the next Awakening.

• An Artist generation grows up as overprotected children during a Crisis, comes of age as the sensitive young adults of a post-Crisis world, breaks free as indecisive midlife leaders during an Awakening, and ages into empathic post-Awakening elders.

The last half of the book focuses almost entirely on Anglo-American history from the mid 1400’s to the present. Obviously, the rest of the world is also having their individual saeculums, which may or may not be running parallel to Anglo-American history. However, as a result of World War II affecting so much of the world’s population, many nations are now running in sync.

On the following page is a chart from Chapter 4, Page 138 of the book which identifies each event and it correlating Turning. Please pay particular attention to the last column which details the events that have occurred in each of the Fourth Turnings since 1459.

Turnings in the Anglo-American Saeculum

  First Turning
Second Turning
Third Turning
Fouth Turning
Generation Entering:        
Elderhood Nomad Hero Artist Prophet
Midlife Hero Artist Prophet Nomad
Young Adulthood Artist Prophet Nomad Hero
Childhood Phophet Nomad Hero Artist


Tudor Saeculum
  Tudor Renaissance Protestant Reformation Intolerance & Martyrdom Armada Crisis
  (1487-1517) (1517-1542) (1542-1569) (1569-1594)


New World Saeculum
  Merrie England Puritan Awakening Reaction & Restoration Glorious Revolution
  (1594-1621) (1621-1649) (1649-1675) (1675-1704)


Revolutionary Saeculum
  Augustan Age of Empire Great Awakening French & Indian Wars American Revolution
  (1704-1727) (1727-1746) (1746-1773) (1773-1794)


Civil War Saeculum
  Era of Good Feelings Transcendental Awakening Mexican War & Sectionalism Civil War
  (1794-1822) (1822-1844) (1844-1860) (1860-1865)


Great Power Saeculum
  Reconstruction & Gilded Age Third Great Awakening World War I & Prohibition Great Depression& World War II
  (1865-1886) (1886-1908) (1908-1929) (1929-1946)


Millennial Saeculum
  American High Consciousness Revolution Culture Wars Millennial Crisis
  (1946-1964) (1964-1984) (1984-2005?) (2005?-2026?)

Content Copyright 1996 Broadway Books. All rights reserved..


It is important to recognize that major challenges will always continue to occur. As they do, different generational hierarchies (seasons) will be responsible for dealing with them. The outcome will be based on how the generational components interact with each other during the challenge more than the crisis itself. To have a Fourth Turning, the generations have to line up in a very specific pattern before their reactions to the catalyst will domino into full fledge Crisis.

For example, how would President Eisenhower have reacted to the events of 9/11 as compared to President Bush (who had never personally experienced a major world war)? How would the country in 1950 have reacted differently to President Eisenhower’s chosen course of actions in response to a 9/11, compared to how we are today to President Bush’s? If this makes sense to you, you are starting to understand how the generational interactions are the prime reason history continues to repeat itself.

The last part of the book discusses where we are today. Our current saeculum began in 1946 and ran through 1964. This was our Spring or High, which was named the American High. Our Awakening (Summer) was from 1964 – 1984 and named the Consciousness Revolution, also often referred to as the Human Potential Movement. The Unraveling (Fall) began in 1984, and at the time of the book’s publication in 1997, it was expected to run until 2005 (give or take a few years on either side). The Crisis (Winter) was predicted to start at the conclusion of the Unraveling, again some time around 2005, give or take a few years.

The final chapter of the book offers five hypothetical scenarios to illustrate what a series of responses to each catalyst would look like to help identify when the next Fourth Turning has begun. Please keep in mind that each Fourth Turning since the 1400’s has averaged about twenty years and things did not unravel all at once. The authors makes it clear that these scenarios are not predications, but instead merely examples to depict how a particular catalyst would trigger a chain reaction that starts the process. I am only going to list two here of the five presented.

· A global terrorist group blows up an aircraft and announces it possesses portable nuclear weapons. The United States and it allies launch a preemptive strike. The terrorist threaten to retaliate against an American city. Congress declares war and authorizes unlimited house to house searches. Opponents charge the president concocted the emergency for political purposes.

· The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announces the spread of a new communicable virus. The disease reaches densely populated areas killing some. Congress enacts emergency quarantines measures. The president orders the National Guard to throw Prophylactic cordons around unsafe neighborhoods. Mayors resist. Urban gangs battle suburban militias. Calls mount for the president to declare martial law.

Please remember that this book was written in 1997, and the above were not intended as actual predictions. They were simply offered to illustrate how a society entering a Fourth Turning might react to such events. It is important to note that had these same events occurred 10 – 15 years earlier, they would not have produced these same reactions.

How close does the first scenario compare to the events surrounding 9/11? While there have been no unlimited house to house searches, the Patriot Act and the Know Your Customer Act now mandated for banks, have significantly eroded personal freedom and the right to privacy.

Do you see any similarities in the second scenario to what would happen should the bird flu become airborne and communicable? Look at how fast we moved to quarantine Canada over the fear of Mad Cow disease. In fact, parts of this second scenario resemble what occurred in New Orleans immediately following Katrina. What if Katrina had been a Tsunami that hit the west coast? If the governmental break down that occurred in New Orleans happened on a catastrophically larger scale, how do you think things would have turned out?

After reading this book, I began asking myself if I had this information and model to consider in 1927, would I have had the sense back then to start taking precautions to better position my assets. Or would I reject it as improbable because it was too uncomfortable to consider? After pondering that question, I decided to act on this information.

As a result, I began reading everything I could find about what happens to an economy during such periods of transition. The answer is usually either hyper-inflation or a major devaluation (depression).

I then began reading books that explored both of these economic phenomenons. We all know some people made it through these periods financially intact, a few even prospered. I wanted to learn what those people did that made that possible.

What I quickly learned was what one should do to prosper in the event of a hyper-inflation is the exact opposite of what should be done to protect one’s assets against a major devaluation. The real challenge became identifying assets that could continue to grow (or at least maintain their value) if nothing occur, yet increase dramatically in value if something did. After considerable deliberation, I developed such a model and am now in the process of repositioning a portion of my family’s assets.

I am also in the process of writing three additional Tallal’s Tips to explain the model and the logic I used to take these choices. It has been more than seven years since my last issue of Tallal’s Tips. The reason why is simple, Tallal’s Tips was never intended to be a monthly newsletter. Instead it was published when I observed something that I felt needed to be brought to your attention. If you would like to receive a couple of prior Tallal Tips, from the early 19990’s (in case you no longer have them) to aid you in tracking the accuracy of some of my earlier observations, please let me know and I would be happy to provide them.

I encourage you to read The Fourth Turning and see if it rings as true for you as it did to me. Please understand the intent of this Tallal Tips is not to imply a Doomsday scenario is about to occur. In order to know such a thing would require a crystal ball.

If anyone attempted to convince me they knew that a Fourth Turning was imminent, I personally would view them as extremely naive. On the other hand, if someone read this book and immediately concluded this is all nonsense and there is now way this could happen again, I would view them similarly.

A prudent man is always alert to potential changes on the horizon and plans according. The farmer knows that the wonderful evenings of autumn are a signal that winter is around the corner. He has no idea whether it will be a harsh or mild one. But any farmer worth his salt does know he must take those signs as a warning to begin stocking up if he wants to see another spring. This is similar to what good sailors have learned. “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning! Red sky at night, sailors delight!”

Most sophisticated investors understand the importance of hedging their portfolio and look upon that as a form of insurance, which in reality is the most conservative position one can take. If you would like to be placed on an e-mail list to receive my next Tallal Tips publications, please let me know. I am always here to be of service.

Jody Tallal
(972) 726-9595

The URL for The Fourth Turning authors’ website is