The United States will undergo a period of immense social upheaval in the 2020s as millennials take over from boomers, and will be guided by a ‘Gray Champion’ who combines aspects of ‘the leader and the saint’, according to a book written almost 25 years ago.
Neil Howe, a historian, economist, and demographer, and William Strauss, an author and theatre producer who died in 2007, published their book in 1997.
Entitled The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, fans of the book say it has proved remarkably prescient, and believe it shows what is to come.
Critics say it is unscientific and vague.
The authors argue that America sees a ‘turning’ every 20 years, when one generation displaces another.
Fans of the 1997 book say it predicted unrest, such as that of the past two years. Pictured are police firing tear gas at protesters in Minneapolis on April 11, after Daunte Wright’s shooting
The Capitol riot of January 6 can also been seen as part of the ‘climax’ phase of unrest
A person is arrested while smoke rises as police clash with protesters in Seattle in July
Every 80 years comes the ‘fourth turning’ – a dramatic shakeup of society.
They point to World War II, the Civil War, and the American Revolution all coming at the point of a ‘fourth turning’.
The Fourth Turning was published in 1997
Howe and Strauss argued that a fourth turning has four specific phases.
First, they wrote, comes a catalyst event that sets the wheels in motion.
Second is what they saw as a period of renewal or rebirth, when people stop tolerating weakening institutions and splintering culture.
There would then be a climax that ‘shakes society to its roots,’ transforms institutions, and redirects purpose.
Finally comes a resolution, that sees the economy entirely restructured.
Supporters of the book see evidence of the fourth tuning at the moment.
They argue that the catalyst event could have been the 2008 financial crash.
The second phase was the reckoning after.
The climax begun last year, and is continuing now, with the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread Black Lives Matter protests.
The resolution, they believe – according to Insider – will come around 2026.
Insurrectionists are seen storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6
The COVID-19 pandemic could also be seen as part of the ‘climax’ of the new ‘turning’
The book foresees a ‘Gray Champion’, who will return eight decades after he emerged
The authors predicted that the resolution will feature a ‘Next New Deal’, which will center around young adults. Boomers will impose a ‘new duty of compulsory service’, and millennials will see this as a way to work for the common good.
The government’s economic role, per the theory, will shift away from providing amenities such as elder care and debt service.
Instead it will move towards spending on survival and future promises, such as defense and public works.
Howe and Strauss predicted that infrastructure investment would be key – something borne out by President Joe Biden’s recently-unveiled plan.
‘Fourth Turning America will begin to lay out the next saeculum’s infrastructure grid — some higher-tech facsimile of turnpikes, railroads, or highways,’ they write.
‘Through the Fourth Turning, the old order will die, but only after having produced the seed containing the new civic order within it.’
They even appear to predict the Biden presidency, describing a ‘Gray Champion’ who will unite the nation.
Eight or nine decades after his last appearance in ‘a similar gate of history’, the coauthors predicted, America will be visited by ‘the figure of an ancient man.’
The person will combines aspects of ‘the leader and the saint’ to lead the way toward resolution.
They called that character the Gray Champion, and said he would be the one to usher in a new economic era.