The Prophets (Idealists)
In each cycle of four generations there is one birth cohort
collectively known as the Prophets . These cohorts are raised in
the increasingly indulgent times following the euphoria of a
resolved secular event. As they come of age creativity is
embraced and new ideals emerge. Established institutions are
challenged and the turmoil erupts into a spiritual event. Theirs
is the job of elder leaders during the next secular event.
Personality: Stormy in youth, visionary as elder,
righteous, austere, principled and creative but sometimes selfish
Cycle (Puritan): John
Winthrop (1584-1614) was born in England and like the
Pilgrims before him he came to the Massachusetts Bay, in
1630, with his band of Puritans on a mission to establish
God's own city in the New World. They called their new
experiment New Jerusalem and they would not stop short of
perfection in their quest.
cohorts: Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams
Cycle (Awakening): Most of us remember Benjamin
Franklin(1706-1790) as the elder statesman of the
American Revolution. Few remember that he abandoned a
successful printing business in his forties to devote his
life to reflection and the pursuit of the moral life.
cohorts: Jonathan Edwards, Sam Adams
War Cycle (Transcendental): Who can fail to see the
mission that was given to Abraham
Lincoln(1809-1865). Born in the warm afterglow of the
Revolutionary Victory, his life though humble, was filled
with intellectual growth and idealistic pursuits. As his
generation gained power in the years proceeding the Great
Civil War they called on him to solve the terrible racial
conflict that gripped the country and he accepted the
cohorts: Jefferson Davis, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph
War Cycle (Missionary): The life of Franklin
D. Roosevelt(1882-1945) was not humble but he brought
an idealistic fervor to the country in a time of great
struggle. Even with a severe handicap he brought his
countrymen through an unprecedented Depression and a
World War and changed the face of American society for
decades to come.
cohorts: William Jennings Bryan, Douglas McArthur
Cycle (Boom): If we are to pick an Idealist
personality for our time we will be hard pressed to not
pick Newt Gingrich(1943-). A child of the '60s and a designer
of the New Conservative power structure, he is burning
with the fire of reform. He has taken on no less of a
task than dismantling the handiwork of the last great
Idealist president, FDR, and substituting a design of his
own. It is too early to judge if this notoriety will hold
up in history's eyes but he has certainly gotten off to a
cohorts: William Clinton, Candice Bergen, Bill
The Nomads (Reactives)
The Nomads are raised in an unprotected environment and
bear the brunt of the criticism as the spiritual event runs its
course. They mature into risk-taking, alienated young adults and
then are resigned to the role of pragmatic midlife leaders during
the secular event.
Personality: bad in youth, lonely elder, pragmatic, savvy
and practical but often amoral and uncultured.
Cycle (Cavalier): Nathaniel
cohorts: William Kidd, Increase Mather
cohorts: John Adams, Daniel Boone, Patrick Henry,
War Cycle (Gilded): Mark Twain (1835-1910)
had a relatively impoverished childhood yet showed
extreme upward mobility. His writings showed little
respect for literary, governmental, or religious
authority, and were popular as a result.
cohorts: John D. Rockefeller, Ulysses Grant,
Louisa May Alcott
War Cycle (Lost): Give 'em hell, Harry
Truman (1884-1972) overcame a lifetime of hard knocks
to reach the nations highest office where he
pragmatically made the decision to end a draining war
with the Japanese by dropping the Atomic Bomb on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
cohorts: George Patten, Mae West, F. Scott
Cycle (Thirteen): Tom
cohorts: Jody Foster, Quentin Tarantino
The Heros (Civics)
The Heros are raised as increasingly protected youth
following the spiritual event and come of age during the secular
event. Theirs is the role of pillar of society. They become
powerful midlifers and develop society in their image and build
its institutions. As elders they come under attack by the midlife
Idealist after the next spiritual event.
Personality: good youth, confident elders, grand,
powerful, rational and competent but maybe insensitive.
Cycle (Glorious): Cotton Mather
cohorts: "King" Carter, William Randolph
Cycle (Republican): Many of Nathan
Hale's contemporary civics, who came of age during
the American Revolution, went on to found a great
democracy and erected the institutions upon which it
stood. When he gave his life for the public good, spying
behind British lines, legend says he told his captors he
regretted having only one life to give. This young Yale
graduate made a difference, even though he died at the
tender age of 21.
cohorts: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Robert
War Cycle:(no civic personalities developed)
War Cycle (GIs): John Kennedy
cohorts: Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, John Wayne
Cycle (Millennials): Jessica Dubroff
cohorts: Jessica McClure,
The Artists (Adaptives)
The Artists are raised by overprotecting civics during the
secular event. They tend to avoid risk and are conformist midlife
adults during the spiritual event. Theirs is the role of
sensitive elders as the next secular event unfolds.
Personality: placid as youth, sensitive elders, flexible,
caring and open-minded but indecisive and guilt-ridden.
Cycle (Enlightenment): Elisha Cooke, Jr.
cohorts: Samuel Johnson, William Shirley, John
cohorts: Daniel Webster, Dolley Madison,
Washington Irving, Andrew Jackson
War Cycle (Progressive): Theodore Roosevelt
cohorts: Woodrow Wilson, Booker T. Washington
War Cycle (The Silents):
cohorts: Walter Mondale, Woody Allen, Elvis
Presley, Sandra Day O'Conner
Cycle: none born yet
- In Strauss & Howe's new book _The Fourth
Turning_ these personality types are called Generational
Archetypes and the Idealists are referred to as the Prophets;
the Reactives are the Nomads;
the Civics are the Heroes
and the Silents are the Artists.
appear again and again in each of the Cycles of American
- Check out Jim Brett's compilation of generational
- Cohorts are individuals who
have birth years in the same generation.
- A secular event is the period
of time within a generational cycle when society tries to
reorder its institutions and public behavior as it
recovers from a spiritual event. This generally occurs as
the civics are approaching adulthood and the idealists
are leaving middle age and relinquishing power.
- A spiritual event is the
period of time during a cycle when idealists approaching
adulthood attempt to change the values and personal
behavior of society and the civics are beginning to give
up their power.