The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

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Gilberto de Piento
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The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Mon Apr 10, 2017 10:21 pm

I'm just wrapping up The Fourth Turning, a book that says that history repeats in four generation cycles. I've seen it mentioned in this forum a lot. I can't argue with it but it also feels like a tarot card reading where they wrote a narrative and then looked for pieces that would fit.

Do you agree with the book? If so, was 9/11 and the recession the fourth turning (my idea, not from the book) or does it have to get much worse to count? Or is there more to come?

How would we know if the theory was wrong? Or if it was right?

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BRUTE
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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by BRUTE » Mon Apr 10, 2017 10:44 pm

intuitively, it feels somewhat right from what brute has seen posted on this board. it might be one of those things that don't allow precise forecasts and is therefore hard to tell from tarot cards. like "all humans die" - true, but not necessarily actionable.

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fiby41
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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by fiby41 » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:11 am

I haven't read the book but from what I understand of what's discussed here, it's similar to the Four Yugas in Hinduism.

Yuga is an epoch/era. The four yugas that repeat in cycles are,

Satya Yuga
Treyta Yuga
Dvapara Yuga
Kali Yuga

We are presently in the Kali Yuga.
Last edited by fiby41 on Wed May 03, 2017 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Dragline
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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by Dragline » Tue Apr 11, 2017 5:20 am

It's about as good a mechanism for forecasting historical moods and potential events as any. Here's what they wrote in 1997 -- to compare, you would need to find other forecasts from that era, many of which are grossly off (like the then-popular prediction that domestic crime would continue spiraling out of control):


"The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. Yet this time of trouble will bring seeds of social rebirth. Americans will share a regret about recent mistakes— and a resolute new consensus about what to do. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II. The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule."

They are actually even more specific and offered the following as possible crises:

"Sometime around the year 2005, perhaps a few years before or after, America will enter the Fourth Turning. . . . [T]he following circa-2005 scenarios might seem plausible:

Beset by a fiscal crisis, a state lays claim to its residents' federal tax monies. . . .

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

An impasse over the federal budget reaches a stalemate. The president and Congress both refuse to back down, triggering a near-total government shutdown. . . . Default looms. Wall Street panics . . .

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce the spread of a new communicable virus. The disease reaches densely populated areas, killing some. Congress enacts mandatory quarantine measures. . . ."

Well, we seem to already have had variations on three of those: Terrorists with planes, a financial crisis and a stalemate over the federal budget. Perhaps not fully believing what they wrote in 1997, the authors continue:

"It's highly unlikely that any one of these scenarios will actually happen. What is likely, however, is that the catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction."

And indeed, foreign societies are also in the throes of this crisis phase.

Regarding the possibility of a Trump-like leader, they wrote what seemed rather implausible in 1997:

"A charismatic anti-intellectual demagogue could convert the ad slogans of the Third Turning into the political slogans of the Fourth: “No excuses.” “Why ask why?” “Just do it.” Start with a winner-take-all ethos that believes in action for action's sake, exalts strength, elevates impulse, and holds weakness and compassion in contempt. Add class desperation, antirationalism, and perceptions of national decline. The product, at its most extreme, could be a new American fascism."

But as Howe has repeatedly pointed out during interviews over the past 10 years, we're only in the beginning/middle of this process and there are no guaranteed outcomes. So hold on to your hats and stay tuned . . .

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by ThisDinosaur » Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:25 am

Haven't read the book. But everything I have read about it so far seems Nostradamus-level vague. If there are "no guaranteed outcomes" and "it's highly unlikely ...these scenarios will actually happen," then what is the value of this theory? Beyond acknowledging that some very powerful individuals are using it to justify starting WWIII on purpose.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by jennypenny » Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:34 am

Summaries like this seem vague because, well, they're summaries. The book has more detail. I wasn't an automatic convert to their ideas but it's hard to deny that a lot of what he/they predicted is playing out as we speak.

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Dragline
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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by Dragline » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:22 pm

ThisDinosaur wrote:
Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:25 am
Haven't read the book. But everything I have read about it so far seems Nostradamus-level vague. If there are "no guaranteed outcomes" and "it's highly unlikely ...these scenarios will actually happen," then what is the value of this theory? Beyond acknowledging that some very powerful individuals are using it to justify starting WWIII on purpose.
It's value is only appreciable by comparing it with other "theories of history", especially linear ones, the most prominent of which is the "progress" narrative favored by many futurists and others (Kurzweilian acolytes).

But if you wanted a reason to own some gold right now, you have one ready made. Or perhaps to buy distressed bonds at a discount when the crisis period is subsiding (which is what made Hetty Green filthy rich following the Civil War). Or understand why the then-common worries about a return to mass unemployment following WWII were way off the mark, and the problem instead was an overheated economy. It basically tells us that what we think are the "real problems" today may not be tomorrow.

This is why people like Ray Dalio are tracking the long-term economic cycles as well. If you can think in cyclical terms, it makes it easy to reject or question most of the linear narratives that are prevalent, and to think more broadly about what the future might hold by looking at the generations that will shape it. Right now this explains why gay rights and marijuana use are now widely accepted, which was nearly unthinkable only 10-15 years ago. The death of the Greatest Generation and the ascendance of Millennials to adulthood are the best explanations for this relatively sudden shift.

Suggest you read the book and make up your own mind.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by ThisDinosaur » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:56 pm

Dragline wrote:
Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:22 pm
It's value is only appreciable by comparing it with other "theories of history", especially linear ones,...But if you wanted a reason to own some gold right now, you have one ready made.
Well, you've certainly got my attention now. ;)

A theory of any kind is only as good as the quality of its predictions. If this particular narrative could tell me when, approximately, I should buy gold vs. some other investment, it would be worth its weight in something-or-other. Your quote from the text is full of non-committal statements, but it has more verifiable statements than this article :

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertai ... 8f9b344523

Can you point to or make any more firm predictions than "there will be a crisis?" How solid is the causal mechanism for why a generation with one specific set of traits should follow one with the next set?
Suggest you read the book and make up your own mind.
Well, that's obviously what I should do. Maybe its a character flaw, but I have a hard time processing recursive abstractions of abstractions that may or may not have anything useful to say about reality.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by jacob » Tue Apr 11, 2017 2:06 pm

@ThisDinosaur - No, a theory could also be good if it told you whether gold was properly valued. If even it didn't tell you which date to buy it and which one to sell it, it would tell you which price to buy and sell. Another theory which is also useful is one that tells you _what_ to do. For example, an investment theory that says people buy gold in a crisis and explains why is useful --- because otherwise you might find yourself buying art or farm equipment.

A theory in the scientific or philosophical sense serve to put some structure on one's thinking. Recursive relations is one way to do it. If the structure of the thinking matches the structure of reality, the structure is useful.

PS: It's necessary but hard to evaluate the level of clairvoyance these "predictions" in retrospect, but at least two of them were known in the zeitgeist. The idea of flying a commercial plane into a building was not novel at the time and it was not surprising when something like that happened with 9/11. Of course predicting the date or year or particular terrorist group was not something that could be done in advance. On that note, it was also not surprising that the Iraq situation would eventually disintegrate and that one of the factions would try to form a Caliphate---because that's just what they always do when there's a big political crisis in the ME---it not something ISIS invented. There was a book written in the 1990s about global hot spots (all the usual suspects) in the near future and one of the scenarios is pretty close to what's currently going on in Iraq/Syria (of course some of the other one's didn't happen) ... but as far as those that did happen the prediction was pretty close. Unfortunately, I can't recall the title. As far as the CDC goes .. look up the Reston Virus. One might consider it sheer luck that an out of control airborne Ebola virus in a private biotech lab on US soil (which actually happened in 1990) had a mutation that rendered humans (but not monkeys) immune. Ebola variants are usually named after the location of patient zero, so look up Reston on a map.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by DSKla » Tue Apr 11, 2017 2:28 pm

For those who read the book, how far back does the cycle of turnings they examine go? Is it just to recent western civilization, or are we talking ancient civilizations as well?

It's interesting to compare the time cycles of this theory (four generations) with historians who studied much longer cycles of entire societies, like Vico/Spengler/Toynbee. The notion that these theories should give exact dates and events is absurd. But the more you zoom out, the more certain larger qualities and trends seem to crop up. And of course no two theories are exactly alike, but there still might be useful elements, especially where they overlap. For example, it isn't hard to find shades of Vico' Age of Men, especially since the late 18th century. You can equally see examples of Toynbee's dominant minority and internal/external proletariat which mark the twilight of a society (though a twilight lasts generations).

It's conceivable to me that there are smaller cycles like those of The Fourth Turning embedded in larger ones, and that each have their value, especially where we find agreement between them and precedent throughout history. I may have to break down and buy the book after watching jennypenny's youtube video of Howe.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by ThisDinosaur » Tue Apr 11, 2017 2:47 pm

jacob wrote:a theory could also be good if it told you whether gold was properly valued.
True. But in context, the theory of four turnings would be applied to foreseeing an impending crisis where gold owners would benefit. Maybe this is semantics.
otherwise you might find yourself buying art or farm equipment
Not sure if this is a specific reference to my attempt to use inflation measures to value gold?

Gilberto nailed my concern about this topic in the OP. How would we falsify 4T theory?

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by jacob » Tue Apr 11, 2017 3:48 pm

That wasn't a specific reference to that inflation thread ... but it would be relevant. Inflation used to be a much bigger and more "naturally economic" driver than gold prices ... but now inflation rates are highly manipulated.

The Fourth Turning cycles have been identified back to medieval times. What would invalidate would be if some periods in the cycles begin to last 2+ generations or more or if generations are skipped. So doing that, it's clear that generational cycles are not like predicting the seasons in a year; it's never be precision engineering because after all, it is dealing with humans. On the other hand, it's doing a lot better than other kinds of historicism. The fact that it's possible to make a table that spans 6+ centuries w/o more than a couple of exceptions is a big endorsement.

Now that the ideology wing of the remaining superpower is driven by fourth turning style thinking does make it self-referential and adaptive (the theory influences the world which influences the theory), so this may actually break the theory. (In the same way that people warning about a stock market crash may cause or prevent it if they get taken sufficiently seriously.)

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by Ego » Tue Apr 11, 2017 3:54 pm

jacob wrote:
Tue Apr 11, 2017 3:48 pm
Now that the ideology wing of the remaining superpower is driven by fourth turning style thinking does make it self-referential and adaptive (the theory influences the world which influences the theory), so this may actually break the theory. (In the same way that people warning about a stock market crash may cause or prevent it if they get taken sufficiently seriously.)
+1 It doesn't really matter all that much if it is true. What matters is that people with power believe it is true and are using it to guide their actions.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by Campitor » Tue Apr 11, 2017 5:31 pm

It's pablum. Watch this: James Randi on Astrology. And read this: Generation Gaps.

Just like the horoscope experiment, the theory is loose enough that you can shoehorn any stage into any segment of history and still be correct.

While I do believe there is a cyclical nature to all things, I don't believe it can be predicted as easily or cleanly as the theory purports.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:02 am

Neil Howe, one of the authors of the Fourth Turning, was on an episode of On Point earlier this week: http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/04/11/ ... eve-bannon. It's not a great show but it discusses the intersection of the book and current policies.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by Dragline » Fri Apr 14, 2017 10:35 am

It's funny to me the slant the interviewer had about "Bannon likes it, therefore it must be something bad," and repeatedly mis-states or overstates the thesis in a series of straw-man arguments, and then acts as if the writing of this book in 1997 somehow "brought about" the rise of Bannon/Trump.

Howe was correct to point out that this is not ideologically-based and that "there is something in this for everyone." It was interesting to hear him speak about his awareness of how various people have adopted his work for their own purposes (e.g., the reference to the Burning Platform site).

For my own Rorshach test, I noted that typically the "first movers" in these scenarios who seem to have all the momentum and ideology behind them do not tend to win out in the end. If you ever visit the battlefield at Gettysburg, among the many monuments, you will see one that records the "High Water Mark" of the Confederacy down to a particular charge (Pickett's) on the third day of that battle. At the time, Lincoln and the war were highly unpopular, the Union generals were mostly inept, Lee was undefeated and the South was aiming for a final blow on Union soil to end the war and make the secession complete. But the charge failed, the battle was lost and it pretty much went the other way from there.

We're probably still years away from that for the most part, although there is an interesting parallel between the survival of most of Obamacare to Supreme Court challenge with the survival of most of FDR's programs to similar challenges early-on in their respective crisis periods.

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by bryan » Wed May 03, 2017 12:36 pm

We very well could be in the fourth turning. If this period (or what may happen in the next 8 years and period after) doesn't turn out to be a fourth turning, I think we can ignore the theory as cherry-picking history with no predictive utility? I haven't read the book.

We have a "Trump is President, how do I make money?" thread.. I'm just waiting for the new thread "Bernie/Elizabeth/Tulsi will be President, how do I avoid losing all my money?" or "Democrats take over Congress, how do I avoid losing all my money?"

I find it strange the theory is so American-centric.. I prefer to think of America as morphing into Europe (e.g. maximum rent-seeking, high real estate costs, more taxes, less innovation, less class mobility, etc).

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Re: The Fourth Turning: Real or Tarot Card History?

Post by fiby41 » Sat May 06, 2017 2:40 pm

bryan wrote:
Wed May 03, 2017 12:36 pm

We have a "Trump is President, how do I make money?" thread.. I'm just waiting for the new thread "Bernie/Elizabeth/Tulsi will be President, how do I avoid losing all my money?"
Tulsi Gabbard for POTUS 2020 <3

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