Howe & Strauss generational theory

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Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Khemehekis » Thu 30 Oct 2014, 07:08

Who here is familiar with Howe & Strauss' theory of generations? I'll explain it for those who have never heard of the authors: they debuted this cyclical sociological theory in their 1991 work Generations, and expanded upon in their 1997 tome The Fourth Turning.

Basically, they say generations come in four types that recur throughout history: Artist, Prophet, Nomad and Hero. These are called generational archetypes.

Artists are washy, sensitive generations that are good at compromise and don't like to take decisive action. An example is the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942). They were stifled by their "children should be seen and not heard" parents from the Lost Generation during the Great Depression. The oldest just missed being World War II heroes. In the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy years, they married early (around, say, age 19). They fought the Korea War without question, even though they knew they would never have the glory that World War II soldiers knew. William Manchester called them "silent". They also produced the first rock-and-roll artists as well as civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X during the fifties and sixties. In the Vietnam War years, Silents like Bob Dylan and John Lennon mentored the Baby Boomers. They gave birth to Boomers and Xers, and, as the authors claim, were permissive but negligent parents. They became professors, academics and intellectuals in the MTV Era -- people like Gloria Steinem and Ursula K. Le Guin -- and also Religious Right leaders like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. They were the most anti-war of all the generations during the War on Iraq, overpowered by bad childhood memories of a total war (World War II). Another example is the Progressive Generation (born 1843-1859), who were traumatized by the Civil War growing up.

After Artists come Prophets. A Prophet Generation is very loud and vocal, argumentative, confrontational, and fervent about what they believe in. When young, they are rebellious and counterculture, but they divide into moralistic factions that war against each other around the time the oldest turn 40. They lead spiritual awakenings that come once every 80 years or so (The Puritan Era, the Great Awakening, the Romantic/Transcendental Era, the Muckrake Era of Upton Sinclair, the sixties and seventies). The best known Prophet Generation is the Baby Boomers (Howe & Strauss say they were born 1943-1960). They were indulged by parents from the Greatest Generation during the postwar Baby Boom, and raised permissively in the safe but sterile world of the fifties. After JFK's assassination, they got into Eastern religion, listened to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Doors and Janis Joplin, protested the Vietnam War, dodged the draft, and joined the SDS, SNCC, the Black Panthers, the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army. They experimented with such mind-expanding drugs as LSD, marijuana, psilocybin and peyote. In the seventies, they discoed and many became Jesus Freaks. Then came Reagan's election, followed by the Bush and Clinton years, when Boomers became yuppies and strict parents who pushed for zero tolerance, uniforms in schools, curfews, V-chips and MPAA-style ratings on video games. They started fighting out the Culture Wars (Blue Zone soccer moms vs. Red Zone NASCAR dads) that continue to this very day. The authors say that halfway between the beginnings of spiritual awakenings, a crisis like World War II, the Civil War or the American Revolution starts, and Prophet Generations provide a visionary leader (the "Grey Champion") who sees the nation through the Crisis and transforms America (FDR, Lincoln, Ben Franklin). Boomers are expected to produce such a leader soon. Another example of a Prophet generation was the Missionary Generation (born 1860-1882), who were born in the Victorian Era, muckraked a` la Upton Sinclair at the turn of the century, enforced Prohibition (but also pushed for women's suffrage) . . . and then gave America FDR.

After a Prophet generation comes a generation of the Nomad archetype: scrappy, cynical realists who are neglected as children and learn to be tough. They don't B.S. anybody, but can be sassy. An example of a Nomad Generation is Generation X, which Howe & Strauss call the Thirteenth Generation (born 1961-1981, they say -- weird parameters, huh?) They were born in the Vietnam War Era and grew up with the New Math, few movies for kids, and movies for adults that portrayed children as possessed by demons. In the eighties, they appeared in movies like The Breakfast Club and Mallrats, widely berated for being dumb, amoral, materialistic, etc. In the nineties they introduced grunge, and have a variety of styles, such as hip-hop, punk and goth. The Nomads, Howe and Strauss say in fact, are the most diverse generations in lifestyle. Compare a Silent high school circa 1950 with Ins, Outs and Greasers to a Gen-X high school circa 1990 with preppies, jocks, rednecks, valley girls, skaters, surfers, slackers, geeks, punks, goths, neo-hippies, industrials, metalheads, etc. Another example is the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900) born during the Muckrake "Awakening" amidst heavy opium, cocaine and cannabis use and unregulated alcohol. They were let out to play as children and then worked in sweatshops before Child Labor laws. During World War I, they fought a disillusioning war, and were not welcomed back when they returned -- in fact, they returned to Prohibition. They became flappers, bootlegged hooch, entered speakeasies, smoked weed in jazz clubs, joined gangs and said, "Oh, yeah" (the twenties equivalent of Gen X's "Whatever"). When 1929 came, the stock market crashed and Losts settled down. They became tyrannical parents of Silents, and also provided America's generals during World War II. They were the Eisenhowers and Trumans and Norman Rockwells of the postwar years, regulating stability and stopping any more radicalism. The majority died by the end of the Vietnam and Disco years, and those who survived were more likely to vote for Reagan in 1980 and 1984 than any other generation. Some, however, had been socialists, anarchists or communists all their lives, such as Sacco & Vanzetti (yes, I know they were executed in the twenties). Losts who survived to see the twenty-first century include Robert Earl Jones, Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Frederica Sagor Maas, Gregorio Fuentes (inspiration for Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea), Jimmie Davis ("You Are My Sunshine"), Arnold O. Beckman and Yitzhak Kaduri.

After Nomads come Heroes. The two Hero generations alive today are the G.I. Generation (born 1901-1924, according to these two authors) and the Millennial Generation (whom Howe & Strauss begin in 1982). Heroes are supposed to be clean-cut, dutiful, deferential soldiers mindful of social conventions who trust the Establishment and avoid radicalism like the plague. The authors often use the adjective "scout-like" to describe the Hero archetype. Heroes are wanted as children, are well-behaved as teens, fight as the soldiers in a total war during a Crisis, settle down after the Crisis to raise children of the Prophet archetype, build institutions once the war is over, get attacked by Prophets (while Artists side with the Prophets) during the Awakening and are busy and active when retired (think of the senior citizens on their gold courses in Sun City with high voter turnouts).

In the authors' 2000 book about Millennials, Millennials Rising, Howe & Strauss devote a chapter to other Hero generations in history. This is what they have to say about the G.I. Generation:
Upon reaching adolescence, the new youths began policing themselves. In an increasingly standardized youth culture, teens watched the same movies and listened to the same radio songs. As historian Paula Fass explains, G.I.s constructed the first modern "peer society" -- a harmonious society of group-enforced virtue. Having "fine friends" and engaging in "fair play" were essential to popularity. Youths began taking pride in their ability to "make the best better", to use the words of the 4-H Club motto. By the mid-1920's, the very word kid shifted in meaning from a word of elder criticism to one of praise.

When the first G.I.s reached college, they began packing the Rose Bowl and other huge new stadia in cheerful youth masses unlike anything ever before seen. They set to work imposing new social mores that pressured collegians to stay within the bounds of the normal. Their fraternities and sororities administered a ritual of "rating and dating" (understood lists of "dos" and "don'ts") to control the libido. Couples were expected to dance close, but student organizations policed "extreme dancing". Violators got a card, and repeat offenders could be asked to leave. Holding hands on the first date, kissing on the second, petting later. Being too forward or too shy brought embarrassment from peers.

. . .

The New York Times described these new youths as "gorgeously emancipated" from Lost Generation badness, and "entirely subservient to conservative public opinion". The president of Williams College summed them up as "nice boys". The Lost writer and critic Joseph Wood Krutch chided them as "not rebellious, nor cynical, or even melancholy. They do what they are told, believe what they are told, and hope for the best." College kids increasingly became what a midwestern college newspaper labeled "a political generation" guided by "facts, rather than romantic fallacies". Malcolm Cowley remarked how they "pictured a future to which everyone would be made secure by collective planning and social discipline" -- what football coach Knute Rockne popularly described as "causes bigger than ourselves".
So basically, because Millennials came after a Nomad generation, Generation X, the authors expect twentysomethings and teens to follow social norms, be intolerant of homosexuality, oppose drug use, listen to the Backstreet Boys and 'N SYNC, dress preppily, believe kids have too much freedom instead of seeking youth rights, get behind the president during times of war, trust corporations, and value unity, order and stability for their own sake.

Then there are the four turnings of the theory: the High (like 1945-1963), the Awakening (like 1963-1982), the Unravelling (like 1908-1929) and the Crisis (like 1929-1945).

Has anyone used this theory to create histories for their conworlds? I'd also be interested in seeing if the people here believe in this theory.
Last edited by Khemehekis on Sun 21 Jun 2015, 10:12, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Ahzoh » Thu 30 Oct 2014, 13:50

I was born in 1997... Does this mean I'm a part of the Hero Generation?

Question though, how does such outspoken activists like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X belong to the Silent Generation or the Artistic Archetype, who seem quiet spoken and passive?
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by eldin raigmore » Fri 31 Oct 2014, 06:41

IMO it's almost surely >50% bullshit.
But whatever. Lots of ideas that pan out only about 15% of the time get devoted followers.
And I'm no expert, and I could be wrong.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Salmoneus » Sat 01 Nov 2014, 21:00

Looks like utter bollocks to me.

Sure, you can extrapolate vague, general tendencies within generations in America in the 20th century, but extrapolating from the USA in the 20th century to the whole of humankind is just... hubristic? As a first demonstration, consider the tens of thousands of years of hunter-gatherers living in the same place with no fluctuation in population size, no changes in political or technological culture. How does it make sense to think that they showed a cycle of 'heroes' and 'artists' and 'actuarial assistants' and 'beauticians' or whatever he calls them?

But more importantly, the entire idea of a 'generation' is a ridiculously culture-specific notion. The USA in the 20th century had very strong generational patterns because a) it was coming off the end of a demographic transition and b) its history was marked by two immense upheavals (the Depression and WWII) that naturally impacted birthrates, creating clear and distinct cohorts.

That is, the USA in the 20th century talked about 'generations' because the USA in the 20th century had a birthrate that did this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post%E2%80 ... _Rates.svg


In addition, c) substantial technological and sociological changes occuring over the century provided important cultural shibboleths that lead to these statistically distinct cohorts becoming socially significant.

If, on the other hand, as is usually the case, birth rates do not fluctuate, or fluctuate on a very short-term cycle (i.e. good harvests vs bad harvets), there will be no meaningfully distinct cohorts (if babies are born at the same rate, there's no way to tell one 'generation' from another).
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Khemehekis » Sun 02 Nov 2014, 05:44

Ahzoh wrote:I was born in 1997... Does this mean I'm a part of the Hero Generation?
Yes, you'd be a Millennial, or Hero.
Question though, how does such outspoken activists like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X belong to the Silent Generation or the Artistic Archetype, who seem quiet spoken and passive?
I don't understand this myself. As a matter of fact, one of the one-star Amazon reviews for The Fourth Turning has this to say:
and the authors describe their Silent Generation (1925-1942) as having been conformist and risk-averse young adults during their coming of age era to fit them into the pattern of the "Artist" generational type; they assert this lifecycle for all the Silent generation and for ALL Artist generations throughout, with the Silents holding their heads down compliantly as the most un-rebellious generation since the Progressive Generation (1843-1859) -- all this for the peers of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Dick Clark, Don Martin and Hugh Hefner.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Salmoneus » Sun 02 Nov 2014, 17:08

The fact they use terminology like 'prophet', 'grey champion', 'spiritual awakenings' that occur cyclically throughout history*, and that they believe that there are determined "crises" occuring predictably that only a great spiritual leader can bring people out of**, not to mention the messianic teaching of a new leader soon to come... these things all perhaps should raise 'warning: bollocks' signs in the readers' minds. It's also worth pointing out that neither Howe nor Strauss is an academic historian (though Howe does have a history degree), that neither of them have any training in sociology, that neither of them have a doctorate, and that they publish entirely through the popular press, not through peer-review.


*rather than vague cycles of religious feeling in the USA in modern history
**necessitating a seriously ad hoc definition of 'crisis' and 'awakening'. To take an obvious example: sure, WWII was very important. But in terms of a massive crisis in western europe, it was DWARFED by WWI. Yet the (american) authors helpfully take WWII as the 'crisis', not WWI. NB. More British soldiers died in a single battle in WWI (the Somme) than in the whole of WWII... an entire generation of artists and future politicians/celebrities was eradicated, there were huge class and gender upheavals, there was the world's deadliest pandemic, and there was a depression more severe (if less long-lived) than the Great Depression. It's a good thing these 'historians' are American rather than European! Going back though the years, the great crisis of the British 17th century, the Civil Wars, occured during (according to them) a Nomad generation, not (like WWII) a Prophet generation. And the following 'clean-cut, deferential' Hero generation? They ended up as the generation of libertines and rakehells during the Restoration, the most scandalous generation for centuries, who practically rejoiced in atheism, public bisexuality, cross-dressing and so forth. They try to paint the Glorious Revolution as a crisis... but that was an orderly transition of power with no bloodshed (other than one post hoc battle in Ireland) and general consensus - nothing compared to the apocalyptic upheaval of the Civil Wars, or even the dark days of the 1660s (war with the Dutch, fall of the Republic, the Great Plague, the Fire of London, etc).

And of course, even this ridiculously dodgy interpretation of history relies on completely ad hoc 'generation' lengths randomly selected between 29 years and 17 years. Just to point out: they have a 27-year 'generation in the 1430s, when women were having kids as teenagers, and a 17-year generation in the 1720s when women weren't having kids until their thirties.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Khemehekis » Fri 07 Nov 2014, 12:38

Salmoneus wrote:Just to point out: they have a 27-year 'generation in the 1430s, when women were having kids as teenagers, and a 17-year generation in the 1720s when women weren't having kids until their thirties.
I thought their only 17-year generation was the Progressive Generation (1843-1859).
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Salmoneus » Sat 08 Nov 2014, 02:08

Wikipedia lists 'Progressive' as 16, and 4 different 17-year generations. MAybe this is an inclusive/exclusive thing.

I note though that even their highly-dodgy explanation-of-everything involves the world skipping a generation because of the american civil war. Huh. Does that mean that the american civil war shaped british psychology? Or does it mean that we're out of sync, and that our sixties was thus a TOTALLY different sixties from yours, and so on?
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Khemehekis » Sun 09 Nov 2014, 04:07

Salmoneus wrote:Wikipedia lists 'Progressive' as 16, and 4 different 17-year generations. MAybe this is an inclusive/exclusive thing.
Oh, I see. I went to that page and whoever typed up that table made a counting error. They counted birthyears like you count guitar chords. For instance, they say Boomers (1943–1960) are 17 years, but if you actually count each year from 1943 to 1960:

1943 1944 1945 1946 1947
1948 1949 1950 1951 1952
1953 1954 1955 1956 1957
1958 1959 1960

you can see that the generation lasts 18 years.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Prinsessa » Sat 03 Jan 2015, 14:17

all the focus is on US generations and thus of course soldiers are called heroes lol

Like most others, I believe this focus comes with a blindness towards the rest of the world or generations too far back. It's just not compatible on a larger scale.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Ketumak » Thu 29 Jan 2015, 17:43

I concur with others - this is way too neat and US-centric. The motor for change in the theory appears to be psychology, or perhaps psychology plus culture. As Salmoneus notes, this leaves out technology, esp eg the IT revolution we're now experiencing. It also seems to downplay economics yet that was the main factor in another, but more popular, grand theory of history: Marx's dialectical theory. I wouldn't advocate that either, but the contrast shows you get different eras according to what deterinants you focus on.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Ahzoh » Sun 05 Apr 2015, 17:05

I wouldn't even call this a theory, more like a hypothesis or just plain Amero-centric babble.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Tanni » Sat 08 Oct 2016, 14:43

Here, Mark Passio Free Your Mind 4 2016 Unholy Feminine & Satanic Epi-Eugenics Part 2, there's something about the millenial generation:

00:16:00 The millennial woman

''I would prefer, that someone else do my thinking for me.''

... uncool to care about anything, anything serious ...

Do you agree, Khemehekis?
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by Khemehekis » Sun 09 Oct 2016, 06:30

Tanni wrote:Here, Mark Passio Free Your Mind 4 2016 Unholy Feminine & Satanic Epi-Eugenics Part 2, there's something about the millenial generation:

00:16:00 The millennial woman

''I would prefer, that someone else do my thinking for me.''

... uncool to care about anything, anything serious ...

Do you agree, Khemehekis?
I disagree.

As early as the late nineties, polls showed about 80% of American Millennials supporting lowering the voting age. Millennials must have reached that position by thinking for ourselves, since you're certainly not hearing it from Democratic or Republican politicians (except Dennis Kucinich).

Polls in the nineties also showed Millennials supporting gay marriage and legal marijuana, back when these were positions moderates wouldn't touch. Millennials take a lot of radical positions, even in the United States. Middle-aged Americans are less radical, and more ovine, than Millennials.
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Re: Howe & Strauss generational theory

Post by HoskhMatriarch » Sun 09 Oct 2016, 23:05

We can be heroes

(This is a silly theory. Where did he pull this from? I don't see where he could have and am tempted to say "a certain body part" but I should probably be more polite than that.)
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