Society seems to follow a cycle of moods that last around 20 years each.

Each cycle is called “Turning”

NOTE This is an unfalsifiable theory, so take it with a grain of salt.



The first turning is a high, which occurs after a crisis. During the high, institutions are strong and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectively, though those outside the majoritarian center often feel stifled by conformity


This is an era when institutions are attacked in the name of personal and spiritual autonomy. Just when society is reaching its high tide of public progress, people suddenly tire of social discipline and want to recapture a sense of “self-awareness”, “spirituality” and “personal authenticity”. Young activists look back at the previous High as an era of cultural and spiritual poverty


The mood of this era they say is in many ways the opposite of a high: Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing.


This is an era of destruction, often involving war or revolution, in which institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s survival. After the crisis, civic authority revives, cultural expression redirects toward community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group.