This is the introduction into what in 2019 I called the Fourth Turning Clash of Inter-Civilizational Culture Thesis. That is a preposterous name and if I could have worked Spenglerarian Seasons into it I may have done so. Unified Cycle theory suffices for my purpose. The sole purpose of the effort initially was to take from what was good in theories and premises about civilizations, cultures, history, and cycles and see if there were puzzle pieces that linked the good into a unified theory. It was also perhaps just my attempt to read from the “book of nature” proof texts in support of Ecclesiastes 1:9.
Abstract from 2019 thesis:
I propose a unified theory of sorts that combines The Strauss-Howe generational theory with a hybrid of Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations hypothesis which explains in part the observation that the West has not reached the End of History as some propose. Rather, classical liberalism, as expressed through derivative ideologies of progressivism, social liberalism, socialism, and communism, has failed to provide the social order and tranquility that early proponents envisioned. At its core, classical liberalism failed to acknowledge immutable metaphysical laws, the historic reality and an approach to human nature based upon realism. The overarching intent of this work is to provide an umbrella under which related research will reside that fleshes out specific and more detailed aspects of the larger hypothesis presented above.
I did not mention Spengler in the original abstract but he is there throughout. Neither did I mention Gibbon and others who succinctly noted the causes of the cyclical crises that built to a crescendo in Rome and other empires. Those ideas are baked in also.
In December of 2019, I wrote a book to the generation that will shape the world coming out of the present crisis. After completing that task, I essentially abandoned thinking about the details of how it all fits together, knowing enough to feel confident that a unified theory certainly exists. I did not truly touch it again in a significant way until March of 2023. In the year of our Lord 2023 it is clear to any but the dullest among us that history, real history is going to be written in this time, something, rather than nothing is going to occur. Something akin to one of those signpost moments in a college 101 history survey.
My understanding is now much more Spenglerarian, I also am truly clearer at this point on what he missed. The Last Roman captures both of those understandings well in addition to describing our period as not just the end of an 80-year cycle, but the end of a civilization and the rise of another in its place. I have come to understand history as both secular and transcendent, the former consists of cycles the later progressive elaboration of truth. These intersect in significant ways, both and negative. Strauss and Howe recognized the confluence of Great Awakenings near the prophet generations of their turnings. A unified theory of history must, by its nature be interdisciplinary and as my conceptualization of the theory has developed further, I have wedded my understanding of other fields, particularly theology and eschatology in particular into that synthesis. The Nature of Our Fight, also written in March of 2023, is necessarily heavily skewed toward the theological aspect of my better understanding of a unified theory. However, it sufficiently explains my overarching understanding at this point sufficiently for someone who holds a different metaphysical outlook than me. Most important from that work is the concept of residue emerging from mini-cycles (the four turnings of the Strauss-Howe generational cycle). This residue is unresolved or created baggage that carries forward from one mini-cycle to the next and builds to define the crisis of a long cycle. The same occurs in long cycles to give us Spengler’s seasons and the rise and fall of civilizations.
Lastly, one school of historical analysis that all cycle theorists ignore, as well as historians in general, is forensic history. By forensic history I mean the search for motive, means and opportunity of groups that plan to leverage events to achieve their ends. I am speaking of course of people that conspire to shape events. Beyond the simple explanations that most conspiracy theorists would provide to describe how the world works, often penning it to this or that particular secret group there is something there. That something is more complex than merely tracing the claims about groups and the lineage of initiation. Functionally it is simpler than that. Practically, however, it is more complex. We cannot help but notice a hidden hand at work, popping up again and again throughout history. The efforts of people, maybe related to each other across time and space in a real way or perhaps exist as mere humans acting according to our lesser nature and seeking power over and over via similar means, in either case – this reality cannot be ignored in a workable explanation of history, the present or the future. It is undeniable that secretive people (I am not simply referring to that Bannon guy) with a will to power have read, understood, and believed both Strauss-Howe and Spengler. We can almost observe the hand of that knowledge at work trying to shape the outcome of this current crisis. Ignoring those facts entirely is foolish.
Neil Howe has recently written a new book titled, The Fourth Turning is Here, I have not yet read the book but I have two observations that have motivated me to write a series on this topic. First Paul Zimmy Finn did a short review and indicates that Howe has expanded the original theory from just being about demographics and generation theory to include something that looks a bit more like an attempt at explaining a unified theory. Howe calls it complex systems and from Finn’s review it appears Howe has accounted in some way for the residue I identified in Nature.
However, more interesting to me is Howe’s own words in several interviews he has given since the release of his new book. These are words I hear repeated in other sources that are seemingly mimicking Howe’s ideas, Martin Armstrong being the latest. The big idea is that we are going through a crisis, and it will get much worse but that crisis is akin to a crucible that will burn away the residue and impurities and something better will emerge from the other side. My main problem with this assertion is that while it has apparently worked within the scope of a civilizational culture acting in accordance with the foundational first principles that are central to the being of that civilization this cycle is not a mere mini-cycle. The Awakening of this cycle was unlike all previous awakenings in that its focus was metaphysically opposed to the first principles of the civilization itself. What will emerge will be “better”, and it will “solve” many of the obvious problems we carry with us, but it will also kill the old civilization. This is Rome and the death of the Grecco-Roman and the birth of the Latin-Christian. It is just that significant of a transition, the death of one civilization with another assuming its place.
Howe’s optimism is misplaced unless he himself wishes to see the last vestiges of Christendom removed from the earth. His fears of just how bad the crisis could become are also understated, because he believes it seems this is just another 80-year cycle like the last and we will emerge into a version of the 1950s soon. For many it will all appear, for a time I suppose, a bright and shiny new world. For others, they will feel like those Last Romans looking around for the real Rome surrounded by strange heretics and a new normal that is only cosmetically related to the old.
I was fortunate enough to see Heroes of the Fourth Turning in 2020. My takeaway was that there will be millennials who simply do not prefer the shiny new world their peers will build. These will look to my generation, Xers, and wonder why we did not do the leg work to develop theoretical solutions to the problems all around us, solutions that aligned with the first principles of our civilization. The theoretical basis, martyrdom, struggle, sacrifice, and all the elements of a Spenglerarian proto-civilization stand ready to take the central theme of the last Awakening into a new world and settle it into new and revitalized institutions, cementing the birth of a new civilization. We, those of us who treasure what we have been given, are doing little and those who try are attacked by people who claim to belong to our tribe.
This misplaced optimism requires an answer. The folly that so many who otherwise appear to be like me yet are incessant in their efforts to put their head in the sand, only removing it to punch those like them thinking about theoretical solutions must be confronted.