The Third Turning is an Unraveling. Old Heroes die, Artists enter elderhood, Prophets enter midlife, Nomads enter young adulthood—and a new generation of child Heroes is born. The mood of this era is in many ways the opposite of a High. Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Highs follow Crises, which teach the lesson that society must coalesce and build. Unravelings follow Awakenings, which teach the lesson that society must atomize and enjoy. America’s most recent Unraveling was the Long Boom and Culture Wars, beginning in the early 1980s and probably ending in 2008. The era opened with triumphant “Morning in America” individualism and drifted toward a pervasive distrust of institutions and leaders, an edgy popular culture, and the splitting of national consensus into competing “values” camps. Coming of age during this Unraveling was the Nomad archetype Generation X (born 1961-1981), whose pragmatic, free-agent persona and Survivor-style self-testing have embodied the mood of the era.
In Parsons’ terms, a Third Turning is an era in which both the availability of social order and the demand for such order are low. Examples of earlier Unravelings include the periods around the “roaring” 1920s of Prohibition, the Mexican War in the 1850s, and the French and Indian Wars in the 1760s. These were all periods of cynicism and bad manners, when civic authority felt weak, social disorder felt pervasive, and the culture felt exhaustedhttps://www.lifecourse.com/about/method/the-four-turnings.html#4T
The Fourth Turning is a Crisis. Old Artists die, Prophets enter elderhood, Nomads enter midlife, Heroes enter young adulthood—and a new generation of child Artists is born. This is an era in which America’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up—always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression finds a community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group. In every instance, Fourth Turnings have eventually become new “founding moments” in America’s history, refreshing and redefining the national identity. America’s most recent Fourth Turning began with the stock market crash of 1929 and climaxed with World War II. The generation that came of age during this Fourth Turning was the Hero archetype G.I. Generation (born 1901 to 1924), whose collective spirit and can-do optimism epitomized the mood of the era. Today’s Hero archetype youth, the Millennial Generation(born 1982 to 2004) show many traits similar to those of the G.I. youth, including rising civic engagement, improving behavior, and collective confidence.
In Parsons’ terms, a Fourth Turning is an era in which the availability of social order is low, but the demand for such order is high. Examples of earlier Fourth Turnings include the Civil War in the 1860s and the American Revolutionin the 1770s—both periods of momentous crisis, when the identity of the nation hung in the balance.