6. The Paradigm Model

The social distress-constellation model held until the mid-19th century. Although the Kondratiev cycle continued to operate into the twentieth century, the social distress it produced stopped interacting with the generational constellation to produce turnings after around 1860, although it continued to create unrest (Table 14). The breakdown between times of distress/unrest and social moments after 1860 shows the inability of distress, by itself, to produce turnings.

Table 14. Unrest periods, Kondratiev waves and Turnings in the 19th century


Kondratiev (Fig 14)


1786-1820 (low)

1789-1814 (up)

1794-1822 (H)

1820-1840 (high)

1814-1844 (down)

1822-1844 (A)

1840-1860 (low)

1844-1864 (up)

1844-1860 (U)

1860-1889 (high)

1864-1899 (down)

1865-1865 (C)

1889-1912 (low)

1899-1918 (up)

1865-1886 (H)

Generation length abruptly dropped from around 26 years before 1822 to 20 years afterward. If the generational constellation is still a valid concept for the post-1822 saeculum the key phase of life roles have to change. Particularly, AC, AL and AS have to shift downward from multiples of 26 to multiples of 20. Figure 18 shows estimates for the values of AC, AL and AS obtained from the lengths of Strauss and Howe generations. For example, 1982 was the first year of the Civic Millennium generation and an aligned constellation year. The first cohort of Generation X, which was starting to enter rising adulthood in that year, was age 21, making AC = 21 years. The first cohort of the Idealist Boom generation entering mature adulthood was 39, making AL = 39 years. Finally the first cohort of the Adaptive Silent generation that was entering elderhood was 57 in that year, making AS = 57 years. The same procedure was used for the other constellation years in Figure 18. AL and AS values could not be obtained for 1860 and 1883 constellations because the Civic generation that is supposed to be entering the mature and elder phases of life is absent (see Table 3). AC AL and AS shifted from average values of 25, 52, and 75 years before 1820 to about 20, 40, and 61 years afterward.

By the end of the 18th century it was no longer generally true that maximum power was wielded shortly before death, making life expectancy a proxy for AL. For example, American Presidents and British Prime Ministers typically did not die in office. Retirement followed active life and the average age of the top leadership (which defines AL) was now less than elite life expectancy. A reasonable estimate for the average age of the power elite might be the average ages of the top members of the three branches of the U.S. government. The age of the President would serve for the executive branch, the average age of Supreme Court Justices for the judiciary and the average age of senators for the Legislature. Figure 18 also shows a plot of this estimate for the age of the "power elite" (APE) for 1790 onward. Note that APE and AL were about the same during the first decades of the American republic, suggesting APE provides a good measure of the average age of history-creating leaders (i.e. AL). After 1820 APE and AL began to diverge. By the 1890's, AL was about two-thirds the ~60-year age of the power elite. When AS again became calculable in 1901 and afterward, its value was quite close to APE. Societal leadership apparently changed from a mature adult to an elder role sometime between the 1840's and 1890's.

As described in section 3, history was made by the propertied elite (usually members of the nobility and particularly the monarch) until the appearance of representative government in the 19th century. Membership in the propertied elite usually came upon inheritance or succession, which came at an average age of around 27, making AC about 27. With the rise of democratic governments and widespread suffrage, history came to be made (indirectly) by the electorate, for whom membership began at the age of suffrage, typically 21. Kurt Horner hypothesizes that around this time AC shifted downwards from the late twenties to 21. During the first few decades of the 19th century the vote in America was extended to all free men instead of just those with property. Figure 18 shows AC shifting downward at exactly this time.

Figure 18. Rise in the age of power elite and changes in AC, AL, and AS.

The shift in the value of L disrupts the constellation model described in section 3. The role of childhood nurture in creation of generations (see Table 10) is still valid, but the source of this nurture changed. With L equal to length of a biological generation, the source of this nurture is the parental generation; providing a characteristic nurture is simply a rising adult role played by each generation. This nurture style flows naturally from the generation's coming of age experience. With L shorter than biological length, parents will fall into two generations and nurture must become a property of the period (turning) during which a generation is raised. Strauss and Howe describe an implicit nurture cycle that is associated with the saeculum (Figure 19). They do not describe how the nurture cycle arises out of the generational constellation, merely noting that it does. Looking at Table 9 it is hard to see how conformist young adults and powerful mature adults would collectively raise a spoiled generation of Idealists, while alienated young adults and moralistic mid-lifers would raise a disciplined generation of Heroes. This suggests the constellation might not create the proper nurture by itself, that the "mood of the times" (i.e. the turning itself) also plays a role. For this is happen we need an auxiliary cycle that does more than just generate distress like the Kondratiev cycle did.

This auxiliary cycle is the paradigm cycle. It creates a set of paradigmic generations, like Wright's war and peace generations in the War Cycle. It produces regularly spaced eventful times that are characterized by activist government policies. These periods help generate social moments that interact with the generational constellation to create turnings and generations in a way similar to that described previously.

Paradigmic generations are created in those coming of age during politically eventful eras. A paradigm, as opposed to a peer personality, is created by the coming of age experience. A paradigm is a model of the world that people use to make sense of the social, political, economic and cultural world they inhabit. A person's political behavior is influenced by his paradigm, which acts as sort of a road map for life. A paradigm is largely based on personal experience and everyone's is different. A collective paradigm is the "average" paradigm of a group of people. As such, many differences between individual paradigms "cancel out" leaving those features that are widely shared. Political trends reflect the changing nature of commonly held ideas in collective paradigms.

Figure 19. Tendency in child nurture by turning (Generations p 99)

The effects of the paradigm cycle show up in politics as another cycle, much as the effects of the population model show up as the Kondratiev price cycle. This cycle was first noted by the American historian Arthur Schlesinger. It appears as an oscillation in the political spirit of the times, or zeitgeist, between "liberal" and "conservative" eras.56 Although he never formally proposed a model to explain the cycle, Schlesinger suspected that the dynamics of political organization itself was responsible for the timing. A successful political party or movement takes about 15 years to define its agenda, mobilize its resources, implement its policies as best it can, and obtain the inevitably less-than-hoped-for results.57 This movement proceeds through several fairly predictable stages: growth and vitality under a charismatic leader, a period of mature leadership, and then a gradual decline as supporters tire of the message. With decline, the baton of leadership passes to the opposition. The result would be alternating periods of ascendancy that should last about 15 years. This political cycle is associated with a regular sequence of critical elections which shift power from one faction to another. These elections typical occur at or near the beginning of liberal eras and provide another measure of the political cycle.

A group of people sharing a common collective paradigm due to the proximity of their birth years is called a paradigmic generation. What separates these generations is the influence the past has had on their collective paradigm. When recent history has been particularly eventful, the impact on paradigms is heightened. A momentous era in history will strongly imprint the paradigm of those coming of age at that time, binding them together into a common generational outlook. People coming of age just before and just after the eventful era will fall into different generations. The acquisition of a paradigm creates a generation out of the young adults of the time (history creates generations). The eventful era itself reflects the policies of an older generation (generations create history). These policies reflect the paradigms held by that older generation, which were created during the previous eventful era. History creates generations, which, after a lag, create history. The lag reflects the time between paradigm acquisition in young adulthood and paradigm expression in late middle age.

New paradigms arise during liberal eras and are reinforced during the subsequent conservative eras. The generation that adopts a new paradigm is considered a dominant generation. The following generation holds a paradigm of the same type and is considered recessive. There are two kinds of paradigms and associated dominant generations. A Freedom generation develops its paradigm during a liberal era coincident with a spiritual awakening. This generation roughly corresponds to the Strauss and Howe Idealist generation. The Progress paradigmic generation develops its paradigm during the liberal era coincident with a secular crisis. They roughly correspond to Strauss and Howe's Civic generation.

Like the Kondratiev cycle, the saeculum can be divided up into "seasons". The summer and winter seasons correspond to the spiritual awakening and secular crisis, respectively. Figure 20 shows a schematic for the oscillation between Freedom and Progress paradigms. The time when the dominant paradigmic generations are created and when they rise to power are shown. Also shown is the correspondence between liberal/conservative eras from the political cycle and the correspondence between paradigmic generations and those of Strauss and Howe.

Figure 20. The Freedom/Progress paradigm mechanism for the post-1820 saeculum

*Strauss and Howe generation types coming of age

The 1960's and 1970's were a liberal era and a spiritual awakening. The paradigmic generation formed then was born in the late 1930's through early 1950's and can be considered as roughly equivalent to Strauss and Howe's Idealist Boomer generation. This era began with a president calling Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country"58 and ended with one proclaiming "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." 59 The first statement reflects the Progress paradigm of an elder generation coming into their time of maximum power, and the latter the Freedom paradigm of a new generation who had come of political age. A new Freedom paradigm had arisen in opposition to the demands of Progress. During these two decades young men were asked to sacrifice their freedom and possibly their lives to fight a dubious war in Vietnam. Their elders were asked to pay high taxes to fund the war in Vietnam and the war on Poverty. Americans decided they had had enough Progress and yearned for Freedom.

Freedom versus Progress is not about conservative versus liberal (progressive) ideology; paradigms are not ideologies. Each paradigm type has liberal and conservative versions. What makes a paradigm is those features held in common by liberals and conservatives. For example, the Reagan revolution and the sexual revolution were both expressions of Freedom paradigms. Freedom paradigms represent individual empowerment. Conservatives emphasize economic freedom to pursue enterprise without government interference and the enjoy the fruits of that enterprise without burdensome taxes. Liberals emphasize freedom to pursue happiness and extension of freedom-creating rights to previously excluded groups like women. With freedom comes a need for personal responsibility and so freedom paradigms typically have a strong moral component. This emphasis on self-regulation makes Freedom paradigms often impractical. The Freedom paradigm created in the last spiritual awakening showed this moral side: discrimination against blacks and women was wrong; affirmative action was wrong; women have a right to a life independent of house, husband and children; abortion is wrong. It also has an impractical streak: regulatory requirements and NIMBY can prevent construction of needed infrastructure; taxes can be cut during wartime.

Conversely, Progress paradigms are prescriptive. They tend to address what society must or should do. Individuals are expected to go along with the program. Progress paradigms tend to rise because of perceived problems that are not being effectively addressed by policies favored by leaders holding Freedom paradigms. The 1930's and 1940's were a liberal era and a secular crisis. The Progress paradigmic generation formed then was born in the late 1900's through early 1920's and can be considered as roughly equivalent to Strauss and Howe's Civic GI generation. This era began with a president facing the greatest economic crisis in our nation's history proclaiming over and over that prosperity is just around the corner. Treasury Secretary Mellon's solution to the crisis was:60

Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate… It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.

These are expressions of a Freedom paradigm that asserts that prosperity will ensue if government would only leave business alone, that hard times were consequences of personal irresponsibility or even immorality. The era ended with the United States triumphant in the greatest war in history, unquestionably the greatest nation in the world, who set about creating a new world order (UN, NATO, IMF) that stands to this day. This era's accomplishments were an expression of a Progress paradigm, that government can be a force for good in the world. Once again, one should not confuse Progress paradigm with progressive ideology. The military-industrial complex and the House Un-American Activities Committee are just as representative of a Progress paradigm as is Social Security. Simply put, a perception that government is doing (and demanding) too much helps create a Freedom paradigm, while a perception that government is not doing enough creates the Progress paradigm.

What I am describing here is another lagged negative feedback mechanism, analogous to the population model. Here policy takes the role of population and the paradigm fertility. The lag is the difference between the average age of the policy making power elite (APE) and the age at which they acquired their paradigm (APAR). The adoption by the younger generation of a paradigm in opposition to the elder paradigm is the negative feedback. It begins around the time when the first members of the elder dominant paradigmic generation reach age APE.

Table 15. Historical American paradigmic generations and the political cycle they generate

Social Moment Turning


Critical Election

Core Liberal Era


Generation in Power

Next Core Liberal Era


















































Table 15 outlines how the timing of the paradigmic cycle arises. The first two columns of the table show the social moment and associated liberal eras. To their right are shown the critical elections. A core era is shown in the next column. This era begins with a critical election, except the first era in which the start of the Revolutionary Crisis was used because national elections were not yet held at that time The core era ends at the same time as the liberal era in all cases except one (1896-1908) in which the end of the turning was used. This era was different from the others in that the 1896 critical election occurred before the liberal era began in 1901. This happened because the liberal side lost the 1896 election, which delayed the start (and end) of the liberal era. The end of the turning in 1908 was used instead of the end of the liberal era in 1918, in order that the length of the core era and associated generation fall into the 12-16 year range of the other eras.

The core eras are when paradigmic generations were created. Their birth dates (not shown) can be obtained by subtracting APAR = 25 years. Adding APE (from Figure 18) to these birth dates gives the time when the paradigmic generation reaches maximum power and when reaction to it should create a new paradigmic generation. That is, the time of maximum power should be the same as the next core liberal era, which is shown for comparison in the next column. In all cases the projected core era closely aligns with the actual core era. In all cases except one, this core era is closely associated with a liberal era and critical election. Thus a cycle of repeating critical elections and liberal eras is defined by a spacing equal to the difference APE - APAR.

The politically stormy times surrounding the paradigm-creating core era is the liberal era. These times serve as the raw material for peer-personality and turning creation by the generational constellation. Liberal eras that produce Freedom paradigms feature a zeitgeist celebrating individual freedom, encouraging the exploration of self and rejection of conventions typical of Awakenings. Conformist Adaptives will loosen up following a mid-life crisis, while indulged youths come of age "trying to find themselves" (i.e. becoming Idealists) as opposed to doing what they should. This environment will encourage a relaxed form of parenting in both Idealist and Adaptive parents, producing the type of nurture that creates a new Reactive generation.

In contrast, liberal eras that produce Progress paradigms feature a zeitgeist promoting individual duty, not freedom. Disciplined youth will come of age exhorted to do their duty to nation and family (becoming Civics). Both Reactive and Civic parents are encouraged to do right by their children and not spoil them, resulting in a rigid and austere type of nurture that creates a new Adaptive generation.

Following the liberal era/social moment, a conservative era follows during which the new paradigm is implemented. Those running society at this time came of age under the old paradigm and came to see its problems and the advantages of a new direction during the just completeed liberal era. Their conversion to new ways is intellectual, it is not "hardwired" into them and so their implementation of the new paradigm is rational. Only after they leave the scene and a new generation, for which the new paradigm is more a matter of faith than reason, are attempts made to align society fully with the new paradigm. These attempts over reach and produce the resistance that spawns the next paradigm and a new liberal era/social moment. This occurs roughly APE - APAR years after the last liberal era/social moment.

Because the time between social moments is one-half of a saeculum, it follows that the length of a saeculum whose mechanism involved the paradigm should be two times APE - APAR, Figure 21 shows a plot of this value as an estimate for the length of the paradigm-based saeculum. Also shown is the length of the saeculum calculated as twice the length of the Kondratiev cycle (with an adjustment in the 18th century for the shift in alignment between the K-cycle and the saeculum). Finally, the actual length of the saeculum as given by Strauss and Howe is plotted in Figure 21.

Figure 21. Theoretical saeculum length compared to actual length

*The values between 1739 and 1814 were multiplied by 7/8 to reflect the shift in alignment between the K-cycle and the saeculum caused by the shift from social moments aligned with upwaves to downwaves.

An abrupt shift in the length of the saeculum in the mid-19th century is evident. Prior to 1860, it was much longer than it was after the Civil War. Strauss and Howe explain this shift by the skipping of a Civic generation associated with the Civil War, a phenomenon they call the Civil War anomaly. According to Strauss and Howe, the Civil War crisis came too early, when the wrong generation (Idealists) was still at the helm. The typical member of the power elite in 1860 was a member of the Idealist Transcendental generation, whereas in previous Crises, the typical member of the elite had been on the cusp between Idealist and Reactive generations. America's Transcendental elite chose a principled, albeit disastrous, stand on slavery. The result was the failure of a Civic generation to form. Strauss and Howe do not provide a reason why the Civil War should have come early. Nor do they deal with the fact that the elite for the next crisis was also solidly Idealist, yet that crisis went well and did produce a Civic generation. Also not explained is why phase of life length (Figure 18) and saeculum length (Figure 20) changed at the time of the Civil War. If all that happened was the failure of a Civic generation to form, I do not see why this should affect the length of generations and the values of AC, AL, and AS.

I favor an alternate explanation for the drop in saeculum length in which the length of the saeculum changed from that provided by a Kondratiev-linked distress mechanism to that obtained from the paradigm mechanism as shown in Figure 21. Until the early 19th century, American saeculum timing was partly controlled by a Kondratiev cycle driven by European war and peace policy, particularly that of Great Britain. Since the great powers prior to the 20th century were European-based, the War Cycle (and derived Kondratiev cycle) was largely produced in Europe. After the American Revolution, a new set of paradigms appeared in America that initially affected only domestic politics, producing the Schlesinger political cycle. The influence on politics spread to the American saeculum. The result was an abrupt shortening in Strauss and Howe generations and turnings after 1822 as the cause of the auxilliary cycle shifted from a Kondratiev distress mechanism to the paradigm mechanism.

So far we have seen how paradigms produce the timing of the political cycle and how this cycle forms the raw material for creation of the saeculum by the generational constellation. What still needs to be explained is how did the Progress/Freedom paradigms arise and how did their effect on politics spread to the saeculum after 1820?

6.2 Development of the paradigm mechanism

Both Progress and Freedom themes were present at the birth of our nation. The Revolution was about the desire for self-rule (Freedom) and the Novus Ordo Seclorum that it created represents a step forward in human development (Progress). The first paradigms just after the Constitution was ratified. The first Progress paradigm was based on the progressive ideas of Alexander Hamilton and his fellow Federalists. Federalists called for a national army and navy, with high taxes to pay for it. The government was to balance its budget and pay its debt. They favored a central bank (like Britain had) and a tariff to encourage domestic industry. These things, they argued, would bring prosperity and allow the United States to develop into a great nation; they represented Progress.

The first Freedom paradigm was based on the libertarian ideas of Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Democratic Republicans. Democratic Republicans argued that Federalist "Progress" hurt rather than helped the common man. Most Americans were farmers, not industrialists, merchants or financiers and did not benefit from Federalist Progress. Jefferson's followers believed that American "yeoman" should be left alone (Freedom) to pursue their own lives.

Federalist thinking justified the Federal government's decision to honor Revolutionary War bonds at full value. These bonds had been issued by the Continental Congress to fund the war and had long since become worthless. Federalist speculators, who had bought Continental bonds for pennies on the dollar, pressed their fellow Federalists in office for this policy and made vast fortunes as a result. Increased taxes were required to pay the speculators, which were raised via excise taxes on whiskey and other goods. These taxes led to the Whiskey Rebellion, which Washington put down by force of arms. As this example shows, it is not hard to see how Jefferson's opposition to the Federalists (once their icon George Washington had left the scene) could have broad emotional appeal for rank and file Americans.

The generation whose paradigm was formed during the Revolution came to power around 1800, the year Jefferson was elected president and the Federalists swept from power. This realigning election was the first of a regularly-repeating series of critical elections that shifted power from one group to another. Once elected, Jefferson and his successor Madison found that the realities of governing were incompatible with their idealistic libertarian program. One by one, they discarded its elements until with the establishment of the Second Bank of the United States in 1816, their party was essentially ruling like the Federalists they had so despised in 1800.

The first contest of paradigms was different from subsequent contests. Holders of Jefferson's Freedom paradigm were of the same generation as holders of Hamilton's Progress paradigm. Thus although the ruling paradigm in 1800 was Progress, which was defeated by Freedom, the victory was not carried forward. The critical election was a refutation of Progress, but the failure of the original Freedom paradigm to rule the nation effectively after 1800 was a refutation of Freedom. As it turned out the latter effect was the stronger and a Progress generation was created during the 1800-1816 liberal era. This generation came to power around the time of the 1828 critical election, which served as a refutation of Progress in favor of Freedom. The new version of Freedom was Jacksonism, a more pragmatic ideology than Jeffersonism.

Jacksonism rose in rejection of neoFederalist progressivism during the 1820's. Jackson's Democrats triumphed in the election of 1828, our nation's second critical election, launching another liberal era during which a Freedom generation was created. Jackson's "war" against the "money power" of the Second Bank of the United States (an expression of the previous Progress paradigm) is an example of negative feedback on Progress that gives rise to a new Freedom paradigm.

Until the 1830's, paradigmic generations were not yet associated with Strauss and Howe generations. The two paradigms were closely connected with political ideology and did not yet carry cultural meanings. Progress meant Hamiltonian thinking and was represented by the Federalist and National Republican parties. Freedom meant Jeffersonian thinking and was represented by the Democratic party. Paradigmic generations produced the political cycle, which reflected alternating political ideology and political dominance by the party representing that ideology.

The Transcendental Awakening (1822-1844) affected Freedom paradigm formation during the Age of Jackson liberal era (1828-1840). A new cultural issue (abolition) arose out of the religious ferment of the time. Most Jacksonians were anti-abolition; they considered slavery from the point of view of slaveholders' freedom to enjoy their property. Abolitionists opposed slavery as a moral evil on religious grounds (recall Freedom paradigms often have a strong moral component). Free-soilers were not opposed to slavery in the South, but did not wish to see it extended elsewhere. Holders of Freedom paradigms split into conservative and liberal ideological camps over the slavery issue as well as the old issues like central banking or the tariff. No longer did paradigms reflect only ideology, cultural issues were now also a factor. Paradigms became broader and political parties more diverse.

The Freedom paradigmic generation produced during the Age of Jackson came to power around 1860 (Table 15). Their division on slavery led to the 1860 critical election and then to the Civil War. The timing of this critical election is explained by the paradigm model as applied to the political cycle. The central issue of the election that triggered the Civil War secular crisis (what to do about slavery), was a product of the spiritual awakening, not the liberal era. That is, beliefs from the spiritual awakening fed back to create the secular crisis through the mechanism of political paradigms. This new saecular mechanism forced the spacing between the spiritual awakening and secular crisis downward from ~50 years (one K-cycle) to ~30 years (APE-APAR) in accord with the paradigm model. In contrast, Strauss and Howe propose that the Civil War came early (for unknown reasons) and as a result no Civic generation was formed out of the Civil War secular crisis. As we have seen this idea doesn't explain why generations have remained shortened since the Civil War.

The Civil War liberal era/secular crisis created a Progress generation in response to the Civil War, the awful "solution" to the slavery issue offered by holders of Freedom paradigms. This generation came to power around 1894, two years before the 1896 critical election. The post-Civil War spiritual awakening (1886-1908) aligns well with the time the Civil War Progress generation was in power (1894-1906) but not the 1901-1918 liberal era. As described earlier, the liberal era was delayed because the liberal side in the critical election of 1896 lost. A surge towards liberalism was very much present in the early 1890's with the rise of the Populists and Free Silver movement, whose standard the Democrats carried in 1896. Additional evidence of reaction against the ruling Progress paradigm was the rise of Jim Crow around 1890.

Once again, it is important to distinguish between a Progress paradigm and progressive (liberal) ideology. Civil War Progress meant government efforts to build an industrial economy. This meant government protection of capitalists against foreign competition (high tariffs), inflation risk (gold standard) and organized labor. It meant subsidies for wealthy capitalists (government loans for railroads) and free land for settlers. Progress meant government should act as a tool of rich employers against poor workers. Progress also called for the government to enforce equal political rights between races. This was seen by white Southerners as an imposition of Northern cultural values. Freedom reaction against Progress took the form of both Populist agitation and Jim Crow. The timing and development of these movements were more in line with the 1886-1908 Awakening and the 1894-1905 period of Progress generation power than with the 1901-1918 liberal era.

The Freedom paradigmic generation created by the post-Civil War spiritual awakening/liberal era came to power around 1931, just one year before the 1932 critical election. The liberal era associated with this critical election was another secular crisis. The Freedom paradigm of the national leadership had prevented effective action against the Depression. "The money changers", charged newly elected president Roosevelt (referring to conservative holders of Freedom paradigms), "have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization."61 The results of the New Deal had been envisioned in the days of the Populists during the last Awakening (just as the results of the Civil War had been envisioned by the abolitionists of the previous Awakening). By the end of the New Deal, just about all of the goals of the 1890's Populists had been achieved.

The Progress generation created during the Depression and World War II came to power in 1967, one year before the 1968 critical election. This critical election is different from the others in that it occurred in the middle of a liberal era, yet was won by the conservative party. The start of the liberal era reflects the beginning of the liberal Kennedy administration. This administration rhetorically very much reflected the New Deal/WW II Progress paradigm, but policy-wise was still cautious. The Johnson administration which followed implemented policy fully in line with the Progress paradigm in its civil rights legislation, War on Poverty, and Vietnam war. Richard Nixon ran against these excesses of New Deal Progress, representing Freedom. Thus, although the conservative won he did not represent the old paradigm, but the new one. Thus the 1968 critical election, unlike the one in 1896 (which sought to extend Civil War Progress) did not impede the unfolding of the liberal era.

As described earlier a new Freedom paradigm arose, associated with the Boomer generation. The paradigmic generation associated with this paradigm should come to power around 2007, indicating that a liberal era and secular crisis should have already arisen or be arising now. The cause would be reaction against the inability of holders of Freedom paradigms to address pressing national problems such as terrorism, oil shortages, healthcare finance or global warming.

So far we have seen how paradigmic generations create liberal eras, and how liberal eras became intertwined with social moments. Post-Revolution liberal eras decay at fairly constant rate. They have a fairly uniform length (15± 3 years) compared to the more variable (18± 7 year) conservative eras. Core liberal eras and their associated paradigmic generations are even shorter and more uniform (13.1± 1.6 years). The shortness of these generations is one of the factors that makes them different from Strauss and Howe generations. Another is that paradigmic generations are virtual generations, like war and peace generations. One cannot find them by examination of biographical information as Strauss and Howe did. They are concepts used to explain the reality of alternating political zeitgeist. In actuality there is no struggle between youthful champions of a new paradigm and elder defenders of the old. The new paradigm is a collection of new ideas that arise in all generations. It is the set that "works" to address the problems of the day and as such becomes part of the conventional wisdom incorporated by the young into their understanding of how the world works (i.e. their paradigm). The "lessons" learned in youth will often be applied in elderhood to superficially similar situations for which they really are not applicable. The failure of these lessons to "work" leads to turmoil that feeds the liberal era and social moment. What is eventually found to work becomes part of the new paradigm. For example, the "lesson of Munich" refers to the failure of the Western democracies to stand up to Hitler while he was still weak that led to the disaster of WW II. A younger generation learned this lesson and made it part of their Progress paradigm. When they came to power in the 1960's, they stood up to the Communists and got the disaster of the Vietnam war. The lesson of Vietnam was a return to semi-isolationism with the Powell Doctrine on the Right and intolerance for military involvement beyond small-scale humanitarian interventions on the Left. Neither approach seems particularly applicable to the post-911 world, nor has the hybrid policy pursued by the Bush administration been particularly effective. Clearly a new paradigm for foreign policy is needed. From this a new 'lesson" will be drawn.

6.3 Why there was no Civil War Civic generation

Figure 21 explains why cycle length shortened at the time of the Civil War. Not explained is why there was no Civil War Civic generation? To answer these questions we must first examine the situation in the last social moment turning for which the old Kondratiev-stress mechanism held: the Transcendental Awakening (1822-1844). The War Cycle peaked at the end of the Napoleonic wars, beginning a downwave in 1814. In America there was a brief recession following the War of 1812 and then a period of prosperity which was terminated by the Panic of 1819. The economic distress began after the Panic.

Figure 18 indicates that prior to the Transcendental Awakening, AL was approximately equal to APE, which was 55 around 1820. Thus the Adaptive Compromise generation (b 1767-1791) should have started to dominate the power elite (occupy the mature adult phase of life) around 1822 = 1767+55. Since distress was already present we should expect an Awakening to begin around 1822, which did happen. The Kondratiev downwave and economic distress ended in 1843 in America. Although the next generation would not enter mature adulthood until 1848, the awakening ended in 1844, apparently reflecting the end of distress. As described previously, the paradigm mechanism produced a critical election in 1860 and subsequent civil war. The paradigm model does not generate distress that can be ignored but political action that cannot and so a secular crisis began even though the constellation was not right. The Gilded generation, the reactive generation that would normally be expected to deal with the crisis would not reach societal leadership until 1880.

Instead the Crisis unfolded with the wrong generation in mature adulthood; the constellation was out of line. Power was squarely in the hands of the Transcendentals and America experienced her darkest hour. The conditions of a secular crisis were delivered by the paradigm mechanism despite the wrong constellation. The Civic generation normally created by the secular crisis was not created. Table 16 illustrates the reason why no Civic generation was created. Shown are the dates for five secular crises from Table 1. Also shown are AC values of 26 (before 1820) and 21 (after 1820). The range of births for those who came of age in these secular crises are calculated by subtracting AC + 5 and AC -5 (before 1820) or AC (after 1820) from the secular crisis. Next, the turning that was in force when most of this generation was born is given. Finally, Table 10 was used to determine the kind of formative years these "generations" had. Only one entry in Table 16, that for the Civil War, shows a nurture that was not "protected". Only one entry did not receive the type of structured childhood needed to produce pre-Civics primed to give the "heroic" response to the secular crisis that forges the Civic generation archetype. Thus, the Civil War was an alienating experience for the Reactive Gilded generation, like World War I was for the Reactive Lost generation, rather than an empowering experience like World War II was for the Civic GI generation.

Table 16. Coming of age in the Civil War was different from that in other Crises

Secular Crisis


Projected birth years

Birth Turning

Nurture & Youth Experience (Table 10)




















Under protected, neglected






The Civil War secular crisis ended with the war because the constellation was still that of an unraveling. Transcendentals squabbled over Reconstruction and the Crisis mood died. In 1868 the Gilded seized control of the Presidency and the House of Representatives. This reaction against the actions of the Transcendentals solidified a post-Crisis mood. Strauss and Howe describe a massive generational shift, the largest ever, in the 1868 election. The share of national leadership (Congress+governors) held by Idealist Transcendentals plunged from 63% to 44% while that of the Reactive Gilded rose from 37% to 56%. Americans elected a youthful (age 46) president Grant, the youngest up to that time. The power elite were still solidly members of the Transcendental generation, but the American people had rejected them as leaders. This election can be considered as when the role of leadership was split into two roles: management (of day-to-day details) and stewardship (of the "big picture" of American civilization). The power elite now fell into the elder category. Thus the length of a phase of life changed from one-half of APE to one-third of APE or from about 26 before 1820 to about 19 in the late 19th century and 21 today. A new role emerged for mid-life, evidence of which can be seen in the ages of presidents after the 1868 election. Before 1868, presidential age varied from 48 to 70, a span of 22 years that easily falls into a phase of life of the old length. After 1868 presidential age ranged from 43 to 78 years, a 35-year range that spans two modern phases of life. Presidential age both rose above the pre-1868 range, when elder stewardship based on time-tested values was desired, and fell below that range when the American people wanted action from vigorous mid-lifers.

The post-1868 generational constellation has new roles for phases of life different from those given in section 3. The role of societal leadership continues to be played by the power elite, but it shifts from a mature adult role to an elder role. A new role of "management" was created for those aged around AL (mature adults). The function of this phase of life now was to serve as a check on elder leadership. Elders rather than mature-adult leaders now have the dominant impact on shaping history. This changes the nature of the turnings somewhat. The Awakening now features busy Civic leaders and indecisive Adaptive mid-life managers, a condition that should augment elder power. Whereas the old Awakening featured indecisive leadership incapable of dealing with externally-generated turmoil, the new Awakening features hubristic leadership that elicits opposition (to Progress), generating turmoil.

The indecisive Adaptives in mature adulthood during the Awakening are conflicted and opposition is drawn from the younger generation as well as those in mid-life, resulting in a generation gap between a strong elder generation representing the old ways (Progress) and the young turks representing the new ways (Freedom). It is the emphasis on freedom in the new Awakening that spawns a "counterculture" that encourages exploration of self and spirituality. In contrast, it was a failure of leadership in the old Awakening (see Table 17) that created a need for individuals to find their own personal ways to deal with the times. Both Awakenings are inner-focused times, they simply proceed from different mechanisms.

Similarly the Crisis now features visionary elders and pragmatic mid-life managers. The old crisis featured strong leadership that effectively dealt with externally-generated turmoil making the Crisis a time of secular achievement. The new crisis constellation is still quite capable of delivering results. The problem is the results reflect Idealist visions, which are going to be expressions of Freedom paradigms. As such they may be ineffective or impractical and thus will engender opposition from pragmatic Reactives as well as rising-adult Civics. Unlike the monolithic Civic leadership of the Awakening, who know what should be done, the Idealist leadership are a bunch of individualists with a variety of visions. There is no need for a generation gap and counter culture caused by opposition to the elder vision; disaffected younger generations can simply pick another Idealist vision to rally under. Hence the Crisis features a gap within generations, not between them.

Unlike the old crisis, in which Reactive-led government competently addresses the problems of the day, the new constellation features Idealist-led government faced with problems of its own making, attempting "solutions" that are as likely to make things worse as improve the situation. Fortunately the plethora of visions available include many that will work and some of these will eventually be implemented. It is the fluidity of personal convictions possessed by Idealist generations that allows society to re-create itself during the Crisis. It is this reinvention of itself that makes the modern Crisis the most important of the four turnings.

Table 17. Description of old (Kondratiev-linked) and new (paradigm-based) turning characteristics





Incompetant leadership; individuals on their own to craft personal responses to the externally generated turmoil. New spiritual formulations arise

Too competent leadership spawning resentment, opposition and turmoil from younger generations creating the "generation gap". New ideas on what is the good life and spirituality are explored.


Calm times. Awakening initiatives carried forward

Culture wars caused by cultural split in Awakening. Weak leadership. Sensitive elders and moralistic mid-lifers both agree that doing nothing is the best way; change occurs by "drift"


New social structures arise as needed by competent leadership to deal with externally generated turmoil.

Government effectively implements inappropriate policies that bring problems, resulting in turmoil. After a period of exploration a new form of society that "works" emerges.


Calm times. Crisis initiatives carried forward

Reclusive (but powerful) elders and powerful mid-lifers judiciously implement Crisis "Progress" to give a time of stability and orderly change.

In the old saeculum the Crisis was no more important than the Awakening. Important civilization-shaking events were just as likely to occur during the Awakening (Reformation, Thirty years War) as during the Crisis (Black Death, American & French revolutions). Non-social moments were not inherently different from each other (Table 17). In contrast, the modern saeculum features a distinct character for each turning that reflects the generational constellation and the political mood as determined by the paradigm model. For example, many pundits have noted the similarity between the 1990's and 1920's Unravelings. Both featured "new era" bull markets caused by the impact of new technology: IC chips and the internet in the 1990's and automobiles and broadcasting in the 1920's. Both periods saw culture wars waged between moral crusaders objecting to the libertine philosophies of the Awakening, e.g. the war on abortion today and Prohibition in the past. Both the 1920's and 1990's were politically conservative eras following inflationary periods and hegemonic wars (WW I and Cold War). These observations are consistent with implementation of economic aspects of Freedom paradigms, which is what one would expect from conservative holders of Freedom paradigms.

As described earlier a mismatch between nurture and the Civil War Crisis prevented the for-mation of a Civil War Civic generation. After the war, when nurture was now appropriate, the crisis mood had dissipated and was replaced with that of an austere High. Lacking an empower-ing coming of age experience the disciplined pre-Civic generation became conformist Adaptives rather than Civics. When their first cohorts reached the new value of AL in the early 1880's, part of the generational constellation for an Awakening turning was in place. The wrong generation (Reactives) occupied the elder phase of life, however. The paradigm model projects political turmoil over the 1894-1906 period (Table 15). There trends suggest an Awakening turning should have occurred in the 1890's and early 1900's. Strauss and Howe record an Awakening running over 1886-1908 that corresponds to this prediction. This Awakening was peculiar in that it was not contemporaneous with a period of high religious/spiritual activity (that came two decades later). Nevertheless an Idealist generation appears to have begun around 1860 and this generation would come of age in the 1880's and afterward. The hybrid "High/Awakening" constellation for this turning did not produce a full-fledged spiritual awakening. Similarly, opposition to Civil War Progress did not launch a new liberal era in the 1890's.

All the generations were in their proper phases of life for the Unraveling beginning in 1908. Table 18 shows how the action of the generational constellation and the paradigm model together produces new turnings. The aligned generation constellation occurs when the adult generations start to enter the new phases of life for the upcoming turnings. For the 1980-29 Unraveling, the Adaptive Progressive generation should be entering Elderhood. Adding AS = APE = 59 years to the 1843 start of the Progressive generation gives 1902 as the year when this starts to happen. Similarly, the Idealist Missionary generation should be entering mature adulthood. This started in 1900, AL = 2/3 APE = 40 years after the first Missionary birth year in 1860. These results appear in Table 18. Averaging these two dates together gives an estimate for the aligned constellation year and adding three years to that gives an estimate for the start of the next turning based on the generational constellation. This value is given in Table 18 as 1904. Table 15 gives 1894-1906 as the projected dates for the core liberal era associated with the Missionary Awakening. On average, the associated turning begins four years before the core liberal era and ends two years after. Thus, the paradigm model predicts the Missionary Awakening to run from 1890 to 1908. This means that the paradigm model projects the start of the next Unraveling in 1908, which appears in the column labeled paradigm-based turning (prediction). Averaging this date with the constellation value gives the projected turning date of 1905, which is then compared to the actual date of 1908. This procedure is repeated for subsequent turnings down to the present.

Table 18. Prediction of turnings using generational constellation and paradigm model


Elder Gen.
+ APE h

Mature Gen.
+ 2/3 APE .

Constellation-based turning

Paradigm-based turning

Projected Turning start

Actual Start











































Excellent agreement is seen between the projected turning values and the actual dates. Note that the agreement of the projection obtained by averaging the constellation and paradigm results together is better that the results obtained with either method by itself. This supports the idea that both the generational constellation and the paradigm mechanism are operative in producing the saeculum.

Political cycles, rent-seeking and the alignment of economic and political cycles

Recall the discussion about Revolutionary War bonds, speculators and Federalists. Exploiting the political system for personal economic gain (rent-seeking) is as old as the Republic. One of the more popular ways to seek a fortune in the early republic was land speculation. The Federal government owned a great deal of undeveloped land and made some available for sale at a fixed (low) price. Periodically, a land boom would develop after most of the available land in an area had been bought by speculators and economic development was beginning, reaping a fortune for the speculators. What made booms in land possible was easy credit (low interest rates). Land speculators favored easy credit while those with money to lend naturally opposed it. The financially well-off generally supported the sort of monetary control possible with a central bank, while the land-rich were in favor of decentralized banking. Democrats (liberals) represented the speculators (Andrew Jackson was one) while the Federalists and their conservative heirs represented the lenders. In the years after the War of 1812, the US experienced its first land boom. Officials at the Second Bank of the United States tried to reign in the monetary excesses of the boom and were blamed for causing the Panic of 1819, the first of what would be seven regular financial panics spaced roughly 18 years apart.10

Speculators were incensed at the financial disaster and their anger fueled the development of Jacksonism. After the Jacksonian liberals gained power in the critical election of 1828, they encouraged decentralized state banks in opposition to the central bank and eventually abolished the central bank in 1836. Another land boom ensued in the 1830's, fueled by expansion of credit by state and local "wildcat banks". The boom peaked in 1836 when the Jackson administration stopped accepting payment for land sales in the form of banknotes (paper money issued by state banks). The bubble collapsed the next year resulting in the Panic of 1837. The ensuing depression probably helped elect a Whig in 1840, ending 12 years of Democratic rule and the liberal era.

For more than a decade after 1840, land prices remained depressed. Then in 1854 a Democratic Congress passed the Graduation Act, which placed long unsold Federal lands on sale at steep discounts. This sparked another boom which collapsed in the Panic of 1857. The depression following the panic probably helped the Republicans win the 1860 critical election.

Table 19. Political cycle/saeculum compared to economic cycles

Core Liberal /
Social Moment Eras (type)

Panic Cycle &
Secular Market Trends*

1773-1791 (L)


1791-1800 (C)


1800-1816 (L)


1816-1825 (C)


1825-1842 (L)


1842-1860 (C)


1860-1869 (L)


1869-1891 (C)


1891-1908 (L)


1908-1930 (C)


1930-1946 (L)


1946-1966 (C)


1966-1982 (L)


1982-2006? (C)


*After 1929 secular market trends are shown, before 1929 the Panic (Kuznets) cycle is shown.

An alignment between boom/bust cycles in land and the political cycle/saeculum emerged after 1820 as shown in Table 15. After the Great Depression, panics stopped happening because of new economic philosophies at the Federal Reserve and Federal government; they were to regulate economic fluctuations to prevent future cyclical depressions. Alignment between economic cycles and the political cycle/saeculum continued, only now it was the Stock Cycle that was involved as shown in Table 19.

The alignment between the economic cycles and the political cycle/saeculum implies that politics is the driver for modern economic cycles such as the Kondratiev cycle (via the Stock Cycle). This is really not all that surprising. After all, the Wright model proposes that the Kondratiev cycle came to be driven by the politics of war and peace centuries ago. I am simply proposing that after the Great Depression, the Kondratiev cycle came to be run by the American Progress/Freedom paradigms that were already responsible for the political cycle and the saeculum. As this happened, the length of the Kondratiev cycle increased to that of the saeculum (Figure 21).

What this means is all three cycles, Kondratiev, saeculum and political cycle are closely aligned today, reflecting a common cause. Timing clues obtained from one cycle can be used to interpret timing for one of the other cycles. Thus, one should expect a phase change in both the saeculum and the political cycle around 2000, when the Stock Cycle changed from bull phase to bear phase. Predictions for the start of a Crisis turning have already been made using the generational constellation (2008) and the paradigm model (2003) as shown in Table 18. Strauss and Howe project 2005 for this date in The Fourth Turning, which fits into the middle of the projections given here. The consensus value is 2004. A critical election is also projected for around 2007 by the paradigm model.

Although a conservative president was elected in 2000, he has not ruled in a way consistent with conservative principles, an observation that has become widely noted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is not because George Bush has ceased to be a conservative, but because he, like President Nixon before him, must contend with a political reality that demands liberal policies. Indeed, the paradigm model forecasts 2007 as the time when the currently ruling Freedom paradigmic generation reached APE and we should see a critical election and start of a core liberal era. The 2004 election had several features common to critical elections. It had a large turnout relative to recent elections, involved intense emotions and a clearly divided electorate. We cannot know whether the election was critical or not until subsequent elections either validate the results or overturn them. The Republican failure to retain control of Congress in 2006 strongly implies that 2004 was not a critical election. If the Democrats win the presidency and extend their Congressional majorities in 2008, this would likely signal that a critical election had occurred. It would also strongly imply that the Crisis turning had already begun some years earlier, confirming the ~2004 consensus prediction.

Return to index