This excitable but nevertheless broadly convincing application of the Strauss & Howe generational theory of historical cycles to recent news headlines is a reminder of the inevitability of story-telling. (Outside in has touched upon this particular tale before.)

The Cathedral is above all a meta-story, a secular-revolutionary usurpation of the traditional Western ‘Grand Narrative‘ (inherited from eschatological monotheism), and its survival is inseparable from the preservation of narrative credibility. As it frays, alternative stories obtain a niche. The Strauss & Howe account of rhythmic historical pattern is highly competitive in such an environment. Events subtracting from the plausibility of progressive expectations are exactly those that strengthen omens of an impending cyclic ‘winter’. Winter is coming, as popularized by Game of Thrones, might have been designed as a promotional tool for The Fourth Turning.


Anarchopapist begins his most recent musings on ‘The Neoreactionary Project’ by asking “What is a meme?” It is a better starting point, in this context, than the question: How correct are Strauss & Howe? Memetics subsumes questions of factual application (as aspects of adaptive fitness), but it reaches beyond them. The successful meme is characterized by aesthetic features irreducible to representational adequacy, from elegance of construction to dramatic form. Even more importantly, it is able to operate as a causal factor itself, and thus to produce the very effects it accommodates itself to. A society enthralled by its passage through the winter gate of a fourth turning would in very large measure be staging the same theatrical production its ‘beliefs’ had anticipated.

Among the greatest memetic strengths of the Strauss & Howe story is its remarkably concrete sense of timing. It offers prospective dates, within a tight predictive range that alternative narratives are hard-pressed to match, in keeping with its claim to have identified historical ‘seasons’. The anticipations of contemporary Marxist, Singularitarian, or Eco-catastrophe story-lines are unmistakably nebulous in comparison. (Notably — NRx has, as yet, no formulated theory to support dated predictions at all.)

Among the most significant memetic latch-functions is a confidence graft. Any cultural virus communicating a definite sense of what is coming finds host tolerance relatively easy to obtain. The history of (precisely dated) millenarianism attests to this overwhelmingly, with the rider that vulnerability to subsequent falsification is necessarily entailed. To some definite extent, such sensitivity to empirical contradiction also has to apply in the Strauss & Howe case, despite the complicating factors of contagious auto-confirmation already noted.

As S&H prophecy in the book:

Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II. […] The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and efforts — in other words, a TOTAL WAR.

It is this admirably determinate forecast, in combination with the ominous content, that lends this work its purchase upon the apocalyptic imagination of our time.


Gathering ‘Fourth Turning’ expectations are part of the memetic landscape in which NRx finds itself, and thus an involved, strategically-relevant fact. A consistent and compelling story about them would be valuable — and almost certainly, in the relatively short-term at least, increasingly valuable.

ADDED: Double doom

June 18, 2014admin 17 Comments »


17 Responses to this entry

  • Bryce Laliberte Says:

    It isn’t entirely true that NRx hasn’t formulated dates. For instance, one might compare the dates from the fourth turning article linked at Washington’s to my own, which also coheres with Anomaly UK’s 2037 thought experiment.

    Revolutionary (1781) American Revolution(1773–1794)
    Civil War (1863) Civil War(1860–1865) 82 years
    Great Power (1944) Great Depressionand World War II(1929-1946) 81 years
    Millennial (2025?) Global Financial Crisis(2008–2029?) 81 years?

    Compare to my own hypothetical projection here

    “Following the World Debt Crises between 2008 and 2036, the Emergency US Senate appoints the First CEO and Board of Directors, comprised primarily of the Silicon Valley trillie elites, gave rise to the 2037 Restoration which established the USG as the first stockholder republic.”

    I think that, for better or worse, the success of the Cathedral in taking the reins of power, i.e. helping privatize the administration of governance, has lowered the overall time preferences of the ruling cadre, but this may only extend the crisis/es for a longer duration before reform may be successful. The system is complex by a magnitude more than those previous systems, and we have a lot more social and material capital to burn. The question is whether it will burn longer or brighter.

    I believe Gromar, who attended the most previous GOP convention, remarked on everyone drinking like it was the end of the world. The mood is grim.

    I just hope House of Cards will finish before it becomes real.


    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    nines instead of sevens? (9×9 = 81) – nines are interesting numbers, for sure.


    admin Reply:



    Michael Reply:

    you can watch the original english house of cards


    VXXC Reply:


    We have that now, you are looking at the painful process of government being privatized and the final vestiges of democracy and the great unwashed having any say in their fate being washed away.

    Today is what the future looks like.

    Oh it’s Finance and Defense [70% of contracting] and Social Services [including prison].

    That’s Today and that’s your post Cathedral future, it’s now.


    Posted on June 18th, 2014 at 6:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • Ex-pat in Oz Says:

    The S&H hypothesis struck me from the moment it was made public over twenty years ago as a significant attempt, if not to avoid, then to understand history. It seemed…. right. It was sidelined pretty quickly and dismissed in favour of Fukuyama.

    In retrospect, S&H won that battle. There aren’t many Star Trek socialism scenarios that are finding much traction in popular culture these days… Winter is coming.


    Posted on June 18th, 2014 at 9:23 pm Reply | Quote
  • Gyres | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on June 18th, 2014 at 9:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mai La Dreapta Says:

    I like “Winter is Coming” as a T-Shirt slogan. It’s better at expressing the fatalism inherent in the NRx project, and it refutes the temptation to activism or optimism.

    After all, what do you do when winter comes? Will your arguments turn back the snows? Will you berate the wolves for their wickedness? They are wicked indeed, and your talking only draws their howling nearer. Instead, stoke the fire. Find your thede, and keep them close. Bar the door. Light the candles. Hope that you put enough in the cellar to outlast the storm.


    Posted on June 18th, 2014 at 11:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    swirl Whig history as opposed to the zig zag whig history of Marxist dialectic?

    Either way, with the Gas conflict ongoing, I can see some serious conflict coming which will catch the public by surprise. The Russia and China attempt at US dollar withdrawal signifies they want to be in a position to be able to operate freely in a conflict situation. Central Eurasia is where it is at now. It’s like a giant chessboard with the goal being to get a pipeline to the EU.

    red dots on this map of of primary importance –

    Azerbaijan is blocked by Iran and armenia (Russia with troops in Karabakh)
    Iran now blocked by Sunnistan (northern Iraq).

    I reckon we may see some action in northern Iran with regard Kurdish independence. Increased support for Assad by Russia

    I can see this all spinning out of control easily. Especially given the double game they have to play with the massive Muslim populations they have imported to Europe.


    Posted on June 19th, 2014 at 1:18 am Reply | Quote
  • Stirner (@heresiologist) Says:

    The linked article does a nice job of mapping out the “usual suspects” of Fourth Turning drivers. Financial instability, the hollowing out of faith in USG, etc.

    Those are the known unknowns. Clearly that is all going to play a role in winter, but my intuition tells me it will be something more than the US going down the tubes Argentina-style.

    Given recent events in the Middle East, it is increasingly clear that we are now living in the shadow of Richard Fernandez’s Three Conjectures. The article might be 11 years old, but it even more relevant today:

    Conjecture 1: Terrorism has lowered the nuclear threshold. With Islamic terrorists, it is a question of capability, not intent. If terrorists get a nuke, they will use it.

    Conjecture 2: Attaining WMDs will destroy Islam. There is no central authority to negotiate with, and MAD doesn’t work with religious fanatics. This creates and uncontrollable acceleration of escalation. When the nukes start going off in American cities, the only way to *stop* it from happening again will be a full-scale nuclear annihilation of the entire Middle East. It might take a few cities, but eventually….

    Conjecture 3: The War on Terror is the “golden hour” the final chance to prevent this from unfolding. 11 years on, the US gave the War on Terror a chance, and it has proven an abysmal failure.

    If Strauss and Howe are calling for total war, this is what total war could look like in the Fourth Turning. If DC is the first city knocked off, that sets the stage for secession, fragmentation, and extra-constitutional measures to maintain order.

    Given this sort of environment, leftism doesn’t cut it anymore. People would be looking for some other sort of value system to justify and steel themselves for what needs/needed to be done. If only there was an emerging value system out there that is fully capable with grappling with hard truths….


    Aeroguy Reply:

    I don’t see terrorists getting nukes that easily. I could see Iran getting them but that doesn’t mean the terrorists get them, after all there was already the royal fuckup with Pakistan getting the bomb. The worst case scenario has always seemed to me to be Iran getting nukes and then not exploding them but using them to consolidate power and influence in the region. If terrorists use nukes it’s easy to determine the origin of where it was manufactured and turn them to glass. Russia and China would benefit most in this scenario by eating popcorn and condemning US actions from a radiation free moral high ground. Besides, nukes are power, and power elites know better than to willingly share power. Sure jihadists are crazy, but you don’t get put in a position to run a country based on how crazy you are, but by how much of a cunning sociopath you are, Iran is not an exception to this.

    The whole point of US actions in the middle east from a deep state real politic perspective is to ferment instability, in that it has been extremely successful. Pulling out of Iraq and we have open war between Sunni and Shiite, it’s everything the deep state could want. I do think at the start of the war there was a mindset that was idealistic rather than real politic that was projected by Bush and down the chain of command. However Bush was never the man at the top and his desire to take down Saddam was exploited by his handlers, idealism was part of how Iraq was sold (to the men fighting), the reality was obviously different.

    I see Ukraine similarly, sure the CIA wanted to move Ukraine closer to the west and they got careless about making it too obvious. But as a consolation prize they got to spark a civil war with Russian troops involved, and they didn’t even have to throw Europe’s economy under the bus to do it, something I’m sure they’re quite proud of. Of course in the longer term game there will be consequences but when you consider their personal job security that’s a feature, not a bug.

    I’m personally of the opinion that the CIA never ceased having contacts in al-qaeda after they fought off the Russians. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if after the first attempt on the WTC with the inept basement bomb, a member the deep state then asked a group of men for ideas on how al-qaeda could succeed in taking down the WTC, a meeting kept at the highest level of secrecy for the most justified of security reasons and then leaked what they came up with (I can guarantee that they had this meeting, meetings like this are the bread and butter of counter intelligence, it’s merely a question if it was one of them who first got the idea to use the jets which a lone CIA agent could have then leaked the idea (feeding information after all is the easiest thing to do, far easier than getting information) while the bureaucracy failed to implement preventative measures, or if the idea came from the same group of heads that thought the basement bomb was a good idea).


    Posted on June 19th, 2014 at 1:18 am Reply | Quote
  • Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » T-shirt slogans (#12) Says:

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  • VXXC Says:

    The actual History of War is periods of Total War are followed by periods of limited war such as we are in now, and that’s not such a bad thing. That’s how wars have increasingly or perhaps decreasingly played out since the peak of Armageddon, WW2. Vietnam for instance was less dangerous and in terms of intensity and stakes less destructive than Korea. There’s also the question of war weary and government weary populations, NRXn may reflect on your own marked lack of enthusiasm for combat. Since the first question now popping to mind is “Why should I?” – yes…exactly. Armageddon already happened, we missed it. However if you’re eager you can convert to Islam which has plenty of carnage for all, you only have to show up.

    Islam is a different matter but most of it’s business it needs to settle is with itself and the casualties, locales reflect this…they may need a 30 Years war to convince themselves Holy Wars aren’t such a great idea. If they use nukes they’ll use them on each other. The nice thing to do [we aren’t] would be to let them work it out. The realistic policy is to meddle enough to keep their considerable dysfunctions confined to their world and it’s not very hard. Just as the 30 Years war was prolonged and aggravated by the surrounding powers so shall Islam’s reckoning, most of which is due to the collapse of the Sunni Caliphate. They haven’t yet you see come to terms with no Caliph, however disappointing it was in reality.

    The appetite for combat and valor is mercifully restricted in the West at least to the Valorous. This is the normal course of History and usually the proper course.


    Posted on June 19th, 2014 at 2:41 am Reply | Quote
  • Zerg Says:

    This 80-year-stages hypothesis seems to assume that the American Revolution and American Civil War are of greater world-historical importance than the crisis of 1789-1815 in Europe. The years marking the stages seem to be the years at which a big crisis ends with the establishment of a new order of things. If we work with the year of the culmination of the big European event that be in the vicinity of the American Revolution, this would be 1815, with the Congress of Vienna’s establishment of a new European order. I don’t see the beginning of any new order in Europe in 1895 or thereabouts. 1945 is a pretty big year for Europe, of course, but comes only 50 years after 1895.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    The assumption is that globalization hadn’t kicked in sufficiently, so America and Europe were operating on their own cycles during the 18th and 19th.


    admin Reply:

    S&H have only really thrashed their cycle through for America (or the Anglo-American tradition, since 1688 fits quite neatly). I’d be surprised if it worked as well for anywhere else.

    There’s a neat French 1789 -1870 ‘seculum’ — not obvious how to extend it though, and the Franco-Prussian War is hard to interpret as an endogenous event. So much Chinese history has been delivered from without that the same problem is close to overwhelming in that case, too.

    Agree with LB (above) that the socio-geographical unit of analysis is historically sensitive (to globalization in particular).


    Posted on June 19th, 2014 at 1:56 pm Reply | Quote
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