This is a book that turns history into prophecy. After years of examining the cycles of American history, we have reached this startling conclusion: Starting about ten years from now, America will enter an era of crisis - an era of political and social upheaval - that will extend until the late 2020s. We call this era a Fourth Turning. And we believe it will be a major threshold in the nation's history, climaxing with events on par with the Revolution, the Civil War, or World War II.
We discovered this prophecy while looking for something else. The Fourth Turning is the product of a decade-long collaboration extending back to when we started writing our first book, Generations. We were both deeply interested in generational issues, and at the time, we presumed that the relationship between our generation and others unlike anything that had ever occurred before. But the more deeply we reviewed American history, the more we realized that only the details were new. The underlying rhythms were not.
While we wrote Generations primarily as a history book, with chapter-length biographies of the eighteen generations from the first Puritans to today’s young children, we also observed how generations tend to come in cycles of four types. In a closing chapter, we applied these cycles to offer predictions about America's near-term future. We suspected that, amid all the buzz about Information Ages and New World Orders, the seasonal patterns observed by the ancients might be hard-wired into the inner nature of our modern society. We predicted in 1990, for example, that America would split into competing culture wars camps; that politics would become moralistic and mean; that “family values” would become a new vogue; and that the emergence of a hardened and alienated youth generation would provoke caustic media reaction. When the 1990s did in fact unfold as the cycles would suggest, we felt a pressing need to alert people about where the nation appears to be headed.
This is by far the most personal of the three books that we have written together. We're extremely concerned about what the coming crisis will mean for our own families. Between us, we have six children ranging in age from two to nineteen, and five living parents and in-laws from sixty-nine to eighty-seven. The life ahead for our daughters and sons, the future memory of our parents, the old age we and our wives, Janie and Simona, will experience — all this was on our minds and in our hearts when we wrote this book.
Will our Fourth Turning prophecy be proved right? Will we enter a new era that transforms the lives of all those who live through it? Will America break apart? Will there be heroism of mythmaking proportions? Will our children achieve a new golden age?
Only time will say for certain. But no matter who you are, no matter what your age or sex or income or family status, we think the message of this book is of urgent importance to you.