Get smarter, faster. Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
A radical theory says major crises remake America every 80 years
A theory of history says America is in the grips of a crisis called "The Fourth Turning" that will change it forever.
Does life in America generally get better over time or does history really repeat itself? More specifically, do horrible events keep plaguing the country every 80 years? Such is the remarkable contention posed by two amateur historians in the 1990s. What makes it truly noteworthy is that it’s believed by Stephen Bannon, the former chief strategist and a key architect of Donald Trump’s surprising victory in the 2016 elections.
One common fact uniting such events as the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Second World War is that they happened about 80 years apart. What Neil Howe and William Strauss proposed in the books Generations: the History of America’s Future (1991), and The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy (1997) is that American history flows in cycles and every 80-100 years cataclysmic crises happen that completely reshape the country.
Their predictions saw a major upheaval called “The Fourth Turning” starting in the early years of the 20th century. The climax of that event would happen around 2020, and the resolution around 2026. As the United States contends itself with an unpredictable leader whose legitimacy is attacked through serious ongoing investigations, it is also drowning under the flood of useful and fake information and being strongly pulled apart along partisan lines. It’s not hard to feel a serious crisis being possible during this period.
Even if its economy is doing well enough for now, the country is in many ways weakened, making it ripe for a major challenge. After what seemed like a march of progressive ideals culminating in the election of Barack Obama, has America been thrown back into history where anything can happen?
Minutemen facing British soldiers on Lexington Common, Massachusetts, in the first battle in the War of Independence, 19th April 1775. Original artist William Barnes Wollen. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The election of Trump, however it came to be, has had a tremendous impact on the psyche and thinking of the country. It brought ideas into the public space that have either been lying dormant or bubbled up entirely as a product of the age. Some of those ideas have been credited to Stephen Bannon, Trump’s currently-exiled ideological brain. He is intimately familiar with the theory of crises by Strauss and Howe, and has even interviewed Howe for his 2009 documentary “Generation Zero.” What’s more, according to historian David Keiser, Bannon has actively looked to use this theory in politics.
Here’s how Strauss and Howe described the “crisis climax” in their book “The Fourth Turning”:
“The Crisis climax is human history's equivalent to nature's raging typhoon, the kind that sucks all surrounding matter into a single swirl of ferocious energy. Anything not lashed down goes flying; anything standing in the way gets flattened. ... The climax shakes a society to its roots, transforms its institutions, redirects its purposes, and marks its people (and its generations) for life. The climax can end in triumph, or tragedy, or some combination of both.”
Obviously, the outcome of such a momentous cataclysm can go either way. Writing in Forbes, Jay Ogilvy thinks Bannon’s view is definitely more apocalyptic than optimistic.
"Battle of Spottsylvania" during the American Civil War. Painting by Thure de Thulstrup. 1886.
Ogilvy also describes the specifics of the Strauss and Howe theory, pointing out that the great crises are actually a culmination of historical cycles or “saeculas.” Each such cycle has stages or “turnings”. If we look at the period we are in now, the first turning was a “High” (end of World War 2 into the 1950s). The second period was called an “Awakening” and included the 1960s “Consciousness Revolution”. The third turning, called an “Unraveling,” can be seen as the culture wars that started in the 1980s and only got worse after the election of Barack Obama.
Notably, as Linette Lopez wrote in the Business Insider, "Bannon believes that the catalyst for the Fourth Turning has already happened: the financial crisis" in 2008. Indeed, according to the theory, we are now in the last stage (suitably called “a Crisis”).
The historians also liken their idea to the seasons of the year - spring, summer, fall, and winter. Clearly, we are deep in the historical winter.
Why do such cycles happen at all? Strauss and Howe say that the key factors responsible are generational changes and societal archetypes. Each time period’s generations play specific roles within that historical cycle, which keeps repeating because “generations that are predictably shaped by history become, as they age, generations that predictably shape history.”
Steve Bannon, the former strategic adviser to President Donald Trump at a discussion meeting focusing on U.S. developments on May 22, 2018, in Prague. (Photo by Michal Cizek / AFP)
One other notable trait of their theory is how Strauss and Howe describe the leader that is likely to emerge during the Fourth Turning:
“A charismatic anti-intellectual demagogue could convert the ad slogans of the Third Turning into the political slogans of the Fourth. 'No excuses.' 'Why ask why?' 'Just do it.' Start with a winner-take-all ethos that believes in action for action's sake, exalts strength, elevates impulse, and holds weakness and compassion in contempt.”
What will happen next in the Fourth Turning and will it end in war, like the other cycles identified by the historians? Bannon certainly believes that the cycles usually involve a large war and expects one to be a part of this crisis, according to the historian David Keiser who participated in an interview with him about the Fourth Turning theory. Let’s hope his pessimism is not warranted or facilitated through policy.
A new study finds that dogs fed fresh human-grade food don't need to eat—or do their business—as much.
- Most dogs eat a diet that's primarily kibble.
- When fed a fresh-food diet, however, they don't need to consume as much.
- Dogs on fresh-food diets have healthier gut biomes.
Four diets were tested<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjY0NjIxMn0._w0k-qFOC86AqmtPHJBK_i-9F5oVyVYsYtUrdvfUxWQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1b1e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87937436a81c700a8ab3b1d763354843" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tested refrigerated and fresh human-grade foods against kibble, the food most dogs live on. The <a href="https://frontierpets.com.au/blogs/news/how-kibble-or-dry-dog-food-is-made" target="_blank">ingredients</a> of kibble are mashed into a dough and then extruded, forced through a die of some kind into the desired shape — think a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_extrusion" target="_blank">pasta maker</a>. The resulting pellets are sprayed with additional flavor and color.</p><p>For four weeks, researchers fed 12 beagles one of four diets:</p><ol><li>a extruded diet — Blue Buffalo Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe</li><li>a fresh refrigerated diet — Freshpet Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe</li><li>a fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Beef & Russet Potato Recipe</li><li>another fresh diet — JustFoodforDogs Chicken & White Rice Recipe.</li></ol><p>The two fresh diets contained minimally processed beef, chicken, broccoli, rice, carrots, and various food chunks in a canine casserole of sorts. </p><p>(One can't help but think how hard it would be to get finicky cats to test new diets. As if.)</p><p>Senior author <a href="https://ansc.illinois.edu/directory/ksswanso" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Kelly S. Swanson</a> of U of I's Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences, was a bit surprised at how much better dogs did on people food than even refrigerated dog chow. "Based on past research we've conducted I'm not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet," he <a href="https://aces.illinois.edu/news/feed-fido-fresh-human-grade-dog-food-scoop-less-poop" target="_blank">says</a>, adding, "However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand."</p>
Tracking the effect of each diet<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU5ODI1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NjY1NTgyOX0.AdyMb8OEcjCD6iWYnXjToDmcnjfTSn-0-dfG96SIpUA/img.jpg?width=980" id="da892" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="880d952420679aeccd1eaf32b5339810" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/Adobe Stock<p>The researchers tracked the dogs' weights and analyzed the microbiota in their fecal matter.</p><p>It turned out that the dogs on kibble had to eat more to maintain their body weight. This resulted in their producing 1.5 to 2.9 times the amount of poop produced by dogs on the fresh diets.</p><p>Says Swanson, "This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet."</p><p>Maybe even more interesting was the effect of fresh food on the gut biome. Though there remains much we don't yet know about microbiota, it was nonetheless the case that the microbial communities found in fresh-food poo was different.</p><p>"Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt," says Swanson, "fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment. As we have shown in <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jas/article/92/9/3781/4702209#110855647" target="_blank">previous studies</a>, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation."</p>
How did kibble take over canine diets?<p>Historically, dogs ate scraps left over by humans. It has only been <a href="https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/the-history-of-commercial-pet-food-a-great-american-marketing-story/" target="_blank">since 1870</a>, with the arrival of the luxe Spratt's Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes—made from "the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef", mmm—that commercial dog food began to take hold. Dog bone-shaped biscuits first appeared in 1907. Ken-L Ration dates from 1922. Kibble was first extruded in 1956. Pet food had become a great way to turn <a href="https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/" target="_blank">human-food waste</a> into profit.</p><p>Commercial dog food became the norm for most household canines only after a massive marketing campaign led by a group of dog-food industry lobbyists called the Pet Food Institute in 1964. Over time, for most households, dog food was what dogs ate — what else? Human food? These days more than half of U.S. dogs are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/magazine/who-made-that-dog-biscuit.html" target="_blank">overweight or obese</a>, and certainly their diet is a factor.<span></span></p><p>We're not so special among animals after all. If something's healthy for us to eat—we're <em>not</em> looking at you, chocolate—maybe we should remember to share with our canine compatriots. Not from the table, though.</p>
What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?
Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.
Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.