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Strauss and Howe (William Strauss and Neil Howe) are authors and speakers known for their theories about a recurrent cycle of generations in American history. The two have co-authored a number of books on the subject and have a publishing, speaking and consulting company called Life Course Associates.[1]




Strauss and Howe's first book, Generations (1991), tells the history of America as a succession of generational biographies circa 1584 to present. The authors identify a pattern in these generations: each can be seen as belonging to one of four archetypes, that repeat sequentially. Every living generation therefore shows a remarkable parallel in character with generations of the same type throughout history. "Generations" plots a recurring cycle of spiritual awakenings and secular crises in American history, from the founding colonials through the present day.

Strauss and Howe followed in 1993 with their second book, 13th Gen, which examines the generation born between 1961 and 1981, "Gen-Xers" (alias "13ers", since they are literally the thirteenth generation since America became a nation). The book shows how 13er's location in history--they were children during the Consciousness Revolution--explains their pragmatic attitude and disproportionately low reputation.

In 1997, they published The Fourth Turning, which expanded on the ideas presented in Generations. Examining 500 years of Anglo-American history, The Fourth Turning reveals a distinct historical pattern: modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting approximately the length of a long human life (about 80-years), and each composed of four eras, or "turnings." Analyzing particularly the period from the end of World War II until today, they describe the general persona of each living generation, from the powerful proactive G.I.s, the thoughtful Silent, the values-obsessed Boomers, and the pragmatic 13ers, to the new coming-of-age generation of powerful, proactive Millennials. By situating each living generation in the context of a historical generational cycle and archetype, the authors claim to clarify the personality and role of each--and the inevitability of a coming crisis in America.

In 2000 the two authors published Millennials Rising: The Next Generation (2000). This work investigated the personality of the generation currently coming of age, whose first cohorts were the much celebrated high school graduating class of 2000. Strauss and Howe show how today's teens are recasting the image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged. They also say Millennials are held to higher standards than adults apply to themselves; they are a lot less violent, vulgar, and sexually charged than the teen culture older people are producing for them, and, over the next decade, they will entirely recast what it means to be young. According to the authors, Millennials could emerge as the next great generation.

LifeCourse Associates has since released several application books on Millennials—including Recruiting Millennials Handbook for the United States Army (2001), Millennials go to College (2003) and Millennials and the Pop Culture (2005). Millennials go to College: 2nd Edition came out in 2007, along with Millennials Go to College: Surveys and Analysis, the first significant study of college students and their parents by generation. Millennials and K-12 Schools and Millennials in the Workplace are soon to be released.

Before the duo met in the 1980s, William Strauss began studying generations in the 1970s, when he wrote a book about the Baby Boomers on how the Vietnam War affected them called Chance and Circumstance: The Draft the War and The Vietnam Generation (1978) with Lawrence Baskir, while serving under President Ford, dealing with the draft and amnesty issue which also included the book Reconciliation after Vietnam (1977) that determined the future of U.S. military enlistment after the war. Neil Howe studied America's entitlement attitude of the 1980s with the Concord Coalition and wrote On Borrowed Time: How America's entitlement ego puts America's future at risk of Bankruptcy (1988).


The Fourth Turning (1997) is the third book by William Strauss and Neil Howe. It expands the theory they presented in their first book Generations by examining the generations in Anglo-American history since the War of the Roses (1459-1487). It classifies every generation into an archetype explaining the function, motivation and course of each. The second half of the book specifically looks at the five most recent generations (G.I., Silent, Boomers, 13th, and Millennial).[2]

Turnings last about 20 years and always arrive in the same order. Four of them make up the cycle of history, which is about the length of a long human life. The first turning is a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order becomes established after the old has been dismantled. Next comes an Awakening, a time of rebellion against the now-established order, when spiritual exploration becomes the norm. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era of strong individualism that surmounts increasingly fragmented institutions. Last comes the Fourth Turning, an era of upheaval, a Crisis in which society redefines its very nature and purpose.[2]

Generational archetypes

Strauss and Howe state that Generations last the length of time of one phase of life--the same length of time as a turning. Like turnings, generations come in four different archetypes, defined in "The Fourth Turning" as Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist.[2]

  • Prophets are values-driven, moralistic, focused on self, and willing to fight to the death for what they believe in- and they can convince other people to join them in the fight. They grow up as the increasingly indulged children of a High, come of age as the young crusaders of an Awakening, enter midlife as moralistic leaders during an Unraveling and are the wise, elder leaders of the next Crisis. The Boomers are an example of a Prophet generation.[2]
  • Nomads are ratty, tough, unwanted, diverse, adventurous, and cynical about institutions. They grow up as the underprotected children of an Awakening, come of age as the alienated young adults of an Unraveling, become the pragmatic, midlife leaders of a Crisis and age into tough, post-crisis elders during a High. Generation X and the Lost Generation are examples of Nomad generations.[2]
  • Heroes are conventional, powerful, and institutionally driven, with a profound trust in authority. They grow up as the increasingly protected children of an Unraveling, come of age as the Heroic, team-working youth of a Crisis, become energetic and hubristic mid-lifers during a High and become the powerful elders who are attacked in the next Awakening. The G.I. Generation that fought World War II is an example of a Hero generation. Millennials are expected to emerge as the next generation of this example.[2]
  • Artists are subtle, indecisive, emotional and compromising, often having to deal with feelings of repression and inner conflict. They grow up as the over-protected children of a Crisis, come of age as the sensitive young adults of a High, rebel as indecisive midlife leaders during an Awakening, and become the empathic elders of an Unraveling. The Silent Generation is an example of an Artist generation.[2] The Homeland Generation is expected to emerge as the next generation of this example.

Each of the four turnings is composed of a unique constellation of generational archetypes. During an Awakening, for example, the children are always a Nomad generation, the young adults a Prophet generation, the mid-lifers an Artist generation, and the elders a Hero generation. During a Crisis, by contrast, the children are always Artists, the young adults are Heroes, the mid-lifers are Nomads, and the elders are Prophets. In "The Fourth Turning", Strauss and Howe state that this has held true with remarkable consistency over 500 years of Anglo-American history, since the birth of modernity.[2]

Strauss and Howe believe that history shapes each generation depending on what phase of life it occupies as it encounters key historical events--a period of crisis will leave an impression on children that is different from the one it leaves on midlife leaders. The boundaries of each generation and the characteristics of its members emerge because they share a common age-location in history. For instance, Strauss and Howe define the Boomer generation as anyone who doesn't personally remember World War II. They are different from the Silent Generation, who share the formative experience of childhood during the war. Thus history creates the generations--and these in turn reproduce the cycle of history. As the protected children of a High who never personally experienced Crisis, and as the moralistic, uncompromising crusaders of an awakening, the Prophet-Boomers are most likely to provoke a new crisis when they grow to control the nation's institutions. As the overachieving children of an Unraveling who never personally experienced an Awakening, and as the team-working, conformist civics of a crisis, the Heroes are most likely to provoke a new awakening when they get control.[2]



William Strauss

William Strauss was a speaker, writer, historian, playwright, theater director, and performer. He was an authority on generational change in American history and the co-founder of LifeCourse Associates, a marketing, HR, and strategic planning consultancy serving corporate, government, and nonprofit clients. Apart from his seven books with Neil Howe, he coauthored Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generaton (1978) and two books on political humor. He was the co-founder and director of the Capitol Steps satirical troupe, for which he performed until his final illness, and wrote three musicals and two plays.

In 1999, Strauss co-founded the Cappies, now an international high school “Critics and Awards” program, and in recent years, he advised the student creative teams that wrote the musicals Edit:Undo and Senioritis. Strauss held graduate degrees from Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.

On 18 December 2007, William Strauss died at the age of 60 from pancreatic cancer.[3]

Neil Howe

Neil Howe is a historian, economist, and demographer who writes and speaks frequently on generational change in American history and on long-term fiscal policy. He is a cofounder of LifeCourse Associates, a marketing, HR, and strategic planning consultancy serving corporate, government, and nonprofit clients.

Apart from his seven books with William Strauss, Howe has also co-authored On Borrowed Time (1988, re-issued 2004) with Peter G. Peterson. He is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he helps lead the CSIS "Global Aging Initiative" and has recently co-authored reports on migration, long-term fiscal policy in the developed world, aging in China and Korea, and the impact of demographic change on geopolitics in the next century. He is also a senior advisor to the Concord Coalition and co-publishes Concord’s Facing Fact Quarterly. He holds graduate degrees in history and economics from Yale University.

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Strauss, William; Neil Howe (1997). The Fourth Turning. Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-0046-4.  
  3. ^


  • Neil Howe, William Strauss, Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, 1991, ISBN 0-688-11912-3
  • Neil Howe, William Strauss, 13th Gen : Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?, 1993, ISBN 0-679-74365-0
  • Neil Howe, William Strauss, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, 1997, ISBN 0-553-06682-X
  • Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Rising : The Next Great Generation, 2000, ISBN 0-375-70719-0
  • Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Go to College: Strategies for a New Generation on Campus, 2003, ISBN 1-57858-033-1
  • Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials and the Pop Culture: Strategies for a New Generation of Consumers, 2006, ISBN 0-9712606-0-5
  • Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Go to College: 2nd Edition, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9712606-1-0
  • Neil Howe, William Strauss, Millennials Go to College Surveys and Analysis: From Boomer to Gen-X Parents, 2006 College Student and Parent Surveys, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9712606-2-7

External links


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