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Generations (ISBN 0-688-11912-3) (1991) is the first book by William Strauss and Neil Howe that describes a cyclical theory of history based on repeating generational archetypes. It examines Anglo-American history by dividing it into saecula, or seasonal cycles of history. A saeculum is about 90 years long - the length of a long human life - and is further divided into four "Turnings" that are about 22 years long - as long as the period between birth and adulthood. Children raised during a particular Turning share similar historical and cultural experiences, resulting in distinct generational types. The book suggests that interactions between generations explains why major crises occur roughly every 90 years (e.g. 1773 - 1861) and why spiritual awakenings similarly recur halfway between those crises.

Although Generations and related books are occasionally referenced in scholarly articles, some scholars do not find the theory compelling.[1]

Contents

Turnings

According to Howe and Strauss, just as history molds generations, so do generations mold history. Modern Anglo-American history runs on a two-stroke rhythm. The two strokes are an Awakening and a Crisis.

Awakening. During an Awakening, rising adults are driven by inner zeal to become philosophers, religious pundits, and hippies, thereby alienating children (who see the adult world becoming more chaotic each day) and older generations alike. Civil order comes under attack from a new values regime. Examples of Awakening eras include the Protestant Reformation (1517-1542), the Puritan Awakening (1621-1649), the Great Awakening (1727-1746), the Second Great Awakening (1822-1844), the Third Great Awakening (1886-1908), and the Consciousness Revolution (1964-1984). Seen as a tumultuous time, somewhat echoing a "Crisis".

Unraveling. An Unraveling is an era of relative peace and prosperity between an Awakening and a Crisis. The most recent Unraveling was seen between The Consciousness Revolution and the time just before September 11 (1985-2001?), a time of paradigm shifting. Seen as a positive time, somewhat echoing a "High".

Crisis. A Crisis is a decisive era of secular upheaval. The values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. Wars are waged with apocalyptic finality. Examples of Crisis eras include the Wars of the Roses (1459-1487), the Spanish Armada Crisis (1569-1594), the colonial Glorious Revolution (1675-1704), the American Revolution (1773-1794), the American Civil War (1860-1865), and the twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II (1929-1946).

High. A High is an era between a Crisis and an Awakening. The most recent High was seen between World War II and the Consciousness Revolution.

Types of Generations

Generations

The four types of generations in their theory are as follows:

Prophet/Idealist. A Prophet (or Idealist) generation is born during a High, spends its rising adult years during an Awakening, spends midlife during an Unraveling, and spends old age in a Crisis. Prophetic leaders have been cerebral and principled, summoners of human sacrifice, wagers of righteous wars. Early in life, few saw combat in uniform; late in life, most come to be revered as much for their words as for their deeds.

Nomad/Reactive. A Nomad (or Reactive) generation is born during an Awakening, spends its rising adult years during an Unraveling, spends midlife during a Crisis, and spends old age in a new High. Nomadic leaders have been cunning, hard-to-fool realists, taciturn warriors who prefer to meet problems and adversaries one-on-one.

Hero/Civic. A Hero (or Civic) generation is born during an Unraveling, spends its rising adult years during a Crisis, spends midlife during a High, and spends old age in an Awakening. Heroic leaders are considered to have been vigorous and rational institution-builders, busy and competent in old age. All of them entering midlife were aggressive advocates of technological progress, economic prosperity, social harmony, and public optimism.

Artist/Adaptive. An Artist (or Adaptive) generation is born during a Crisis, spends its rising adult years in a new High, spends midlife in an Awakening, and spends old age in an Unraveling. Artistic leaders have been advocates of fairness and the politics of inclusion, irrepressible in the wake of failure.

List of Generations

Howe and Strauss characterize generations and their types as follows:

Generation Type Birth Years Formative Era Comments
Late Medieval Saeculum
Arthurian Generation Hero (Civic) 1433–1460 Retreat from France
Humanist Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1461–1482 War of the Roses
Reformation Saeculum
Reformation Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1483–1511 Tudor Renaissance
Reprisal Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1512–1540 Protestant Reformation
Elizabethan Generation Hero (Civic) 1541–1565 Intolerance and Martyrdom
Parliamentarian Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1566–1587 Armada Crisis
New World Saeculum
Puritan Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1588–1617 Merrie England
Cavalier Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1618–1647 Puritan Awakening
Glorious Generation Hero (Civic) 1648–1673 Religious Intolerance
Enlightenment Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1674–1700 King Philip's War/
Glorious Revolution
Revolutionary Saeculum
Awakening Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1701–1723 Augustan Age of Empire
Liberty Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1724–1741 Great Awakening
Republican Generation Hero (Civic) 1742–1766 French and Indian War
Compromise Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1767–1791 American Revolution
Civil War Saeculum
Transcendental Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1792–1821 Era of Good Feeling
Gilded Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1822–1842 Transcendental Awakening
Progressive Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1843–1859 American Civil War
Great Power Saeculum
Missionary Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1860–1882 Reconstruction/Gilded Age
Lost Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1883–1900 Missionary Awakening
G.I. Generation Hero (Civic) 1901–1924 World War I/Prohibition
Silent Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1925–1942 Great Depression/World War II
Millennial Saeculum
(baby) Boom Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1943–1960 Superpower America
13th Generation
(a.k.a Generation X)1
Nomad (Reactive) 1961–1981 Consciousness Revolution
Millennial Generation2 Hero (Civic) 1982–2003? Culture Wars
New Silent Generation 3 Artist (Adaptive) 2004?– present War on Terror

Note (1): Strauss and Howe use the name "13th Generation" instead of the more widely accepted "Generation X" in their book, which was published mere weeks before Douglas Coupland's Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture was. The generation is so numbered because it is the thirteenth generation alive since American Independence (counting back until Benjamin Franklin's). Some demographers have also referred to this group as the Baby Bust generation, a term that like Generation X has some definitional confusion.[citation needed]

Note (2): Although there is as yet no universally accepted name for this generation, "Millennials" is becoming widely accepted. Other names used in reference to it include Generation Y (as it is the generation following Generation X) and "The Net Generation." Another name "Generation Next" stems from a Pepsi-Cola corporation ad campaign featuring one of the most iconic symbols of Generation Y, the Spice Girls.[citation needed]

Note (3): New Silent Generation was a proposed holding name used by Neil Howe and William Strauss in their demographic history of America, Generations, to describe the generation whose birth years began somewhere in the early 2000s and the ending point will be around the early 2020s. Howe and Strauss now refer to this generation (most likely currently being born) as the Homeland Generation.[citation needed]

Question marks in the table above indicate that the consensus generational boundary has not been defined yet in their theory, but generations are on average about 22 years in length, so approximations can be listed.

According to the above chart, generational types have appeared in Anglo-American history in a fixed order for more than 500 years, with one hiccup in the Civil War Saeculum. (The reasons for this is because according to the chart, the Civil War came about ten years too early; the adult generations allowed the worst aspects of their generational personalities to come through; and the Progressives grew up scarred rather than ennobled.)

See also

  • List of Generations
  • Furek, Maxim W. "The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin." i-Universe, 2008. ISBN 978-0-595-46319-0
  • Generation 9/11

References

  1. ^ Giancola, Frank (2006). "The Generation Gap: More Myth than Reality". Human Resource Planning. 

External links

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