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He was probably drawing from the Strauss-Howe generational theory[1], which is more than 20 years old now. He (or you) should have credited the original thinkers for these ideas. Their 1997 book "The Fourth Turning" is considered pseudoscience but nonetheless great food for thought, imho.

Note that the cycle may sometimes be shorter (3 gens) or longer (5). It's not really a theory, more like empirical observation. Unfortunately, it has no predictive power whatsoever, so it's just that, food for thought.

Edit: Interestingly, it came out almost at about the same time as Huttington's "Clash of the Civilizations"[2], and a number of interesting scenarios from Shell[3][4] and the CIA (link?), which notably informed Clinton's push for global democracy — all these studies concurred, at the time, that positive disruption was a plausible scenario.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss%E2%80%93Howe_generatio...

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clash_of_Civilizations

[3]: https://www.shell.com/energy-and-innovation/the-energy-futur...

[4]: https://www.shell.com/energy-and-innovation/the-energy-futur...

The idea of cycles in social history is as old as the hills. It's possible your claim that he drew from Strauss-Howe is correct, but while they may have packaged the idea in a distinctive way, it has a long history.


Oh indeed! Thanks for the precision, well worth noting.

The particular arrangement of The Fourth Turning is adamantly specific though (and quite famous in sociological circles, iirc it's where our modern concepts of "millenials" or "gen X" etc. come from); it's hard to mistake it for anything else.

I don't doubt for one second that Greene knows it, or that he'd expect a sophisticated audience (such as Googlers) to know it too — the credit is probably very much implied as soon as you present things this way. Like we don't need to credit someone for E=mc² or a²+b²=c² because it's obvious. Green is notoriously awesome at doing synthesis of a bunch of seminal sources, that's his M.O. — more than original thinking imho, but his delivery is often incredibly worthy of interest.

Fwiw, I'd argue it's extremely easy to take pretty much any social dimension(s) and slap some abstract model on top of it with relevance. I've read countless such accounts, and did it myself in regard to cycles in concentration of political power. Strauss-Howe's model is relatively interesting insofar as it draws upon quite long-term history (some variations / extensions go back to ~1200 iirc, though the core theory was fundamentally applied to the American civilization), which gives it weight.

Source: I studied sociology-anthropology-politics.

Thanks I didn't realise the naming originated with them. wrt pseudo science the whole social cycles subject is interesting and sometimes plausible enough to read about even if you take it with a large pinch of salt.

Yes, social cycles are definitely a thing empirically, historically. The learning curve over humanity's civilization is tedious, hard, but we're making progress overall. We have reached a situation where some actors, being super-massive, have enough data and tools to effectively move social behavior —a long movement from 'States' (whatever the name) since immemorial centuries up to big tech in the 21st.

I think the future of social sciences is there, currently tightly secured intellectual property and datasets in the beating core of giant tech. Those who command enough of that elusive 'power' are now capable of shaping humanity to an unprecedented degree.

Like any tool, neither good nor bad but what we make of it...

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