This is a big topic to discuss in just one post so this introduction to the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory is Part 1 of 2 posts. The Strauss–Howe generational theory, devised by William Strauss and Neil Howe, describes a cycle of generations that last around 20-25 years that, because of their nature and energies, impact history.
This reminds me of the Saturn Return which occurs for individuals every 28-30 years, patterning the orbit of Saturn within one's individual horoscope and the overall generational Pluto transit that impacts history (although with Pluto, because it orbits in an elliptic, doesn't have a standard amount of time in each sign. Scorpio is for 12 years while Taurus is 30 years.) Remember the Pluto in Leo generation of flower children?
Strauss-Howe's theory is not that different from a planetary return in that it determines that because historical events are associated with recurring generational personas (archetypes), each generational persona unleashes a new era (called a turning) where a new social, political, and economic climate (mood) exists.
According to Wikipedia, Strauss and Howe define a social generation as the aggregate of all people born over a span of roughly twenty years or about the length of one phase of life: childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and old age.
Generations are identified (from first birth year to last) by looking for cohort groups of this length that share three criteria. First, members of a generation share an age location in history: they encounter key historical events and social trends while occupying the same phase of life. So members of a generation are shaped in lasting ways by the eras they encounter as children and young adults (which are called turnings) and they share certain common beliefs and behaviors. Aware of the experiences and traits that they share with their peers, members of a generation would also share a sense of common perceived membership in that generation.
Over the span of a general lifetime (around 80 years) there are four turnings - "The High", "The Awakening", "The Unraveling" and "The Crisis".
"The High" - institutions are strong and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectively, though those outside the majoritarian center often feel stifled by the conformity, such as post–World War II beginning in 1946 and ending with the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
"The Awakening" - an era when institutions are attacked in the name of personal and spiritual autonomy. Just when society is reaching its high tide of public progress, people suddenly tire of social discipline and want to recapture a sense of "self-awareness", "spirituality" and "personal authenticity". This corresponds to the 1960's of free love, campus upheaval and inner-city revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s.
"The Unraveling" - with a mood the opposite of a High: Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Society wants to atomize and enjoy such as during the 1980s where "greed is good" and includes the Culture War.
"The Crisis" - the Fourth Turning which is an era of destruction, often involving war or revolution, in which institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation's survival. This turning would have started in the 2000s.
Is there cause for optimism? Strauss-Howe believe that after the crisis, civic authority revives, cultural expression redirects towards community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group.
Stay tuned for next week's Part 2 post describing the Fourth Turning.