One hundred years ago, on July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which began what became World War I. France, Russia, and Britain fought Germany and Austria-Hungary – the Allies against the Central Powers. Three years later, with millions dead and the war in a stalemate, the United States sent 2 million men to the Western Front backing the Allies. This compelled Germany to cease fighting and sign the Treaty of Versailles, which set the stage for an even more catastrophic Second World War.
Following World War II, the U. S. government assumed the role as the world’s policeman and has pursued an aggressive foreign policy, particularly with regard to Russia. Could there be another Great War? A World War III?
William Strauss and Neil Howe predict that this may well happen in their book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, published in 1997. Rather than progress in a linear fashion, as commonly thought, these authors posit that human history has a seasonal, cyclical nature. Each Cycle (or Saeculum) throughout human history has averaged about 80 years (aSaeculum is the length of time roughly equal to the lifetime of a person and is equivalent to the overall renewal of a human population.) America is in its Fourth Cycle, beginning with the Revolutionary Cycle (1704-1794), then a Civil War Cycle (1794-1865), followed by a Great Power Cycle (1865-1946), and now its Millennial Cycle (1946-2026?).
Strauss and Howe term the seasons in each cycle ‘Turnings.’ The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era when institutions are strong, and individualism weak, and society is confident about where it wants to go; the Second, an Awakening, a passionate time of spiritual upheaval when institutions come under attack; and the Third, an Unraveling, a downcast era where individualism is strong and flourishing and institutions weak and distrusted (i.e., ‘periods of cynicism and bad manners’), like Prohibition in the Great Power cycle and the Culture Wars in the current Millennial cycle. The Fourth Turning is one of Crisis spanning usually a couple of decades, where the country’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s survival.
This post was published at Lew Rockwell on September 16, 2014.