On the Fourth Turning Forum, there is an interesting discussion going on about exactly when the last 2T ended and when the 3T began. Some readers wonder if the years of the Summer of Love, Woodstock, and the Chicago 7 could really belong to the same era as the first term of President Ronald Reagan. It’s a good question.
My short answer is that the one big theme that ties both ends of this (or any) awakening era together is a society-wide determination to defy convention, shed constraints, and throw off every manner of social obligation. Early in the last 2T, this impulse erupted most strongly against cultural standards and social authority (giving rise to the “counter-culture,” minority “power,” and epic demonstrations and riots). Late in the last 2T, it rose up most strongly against fiscal burdens and economic burdens (giving rise to “tax revolts” and “deregulation”). The people involved in these movements were not the same, but they certainly overlapped and each group ultimately drew sympathy from across the aisle. Meaning: Even Republicans went along with the looser manners and mores that sprung up in the mid-60s, and even Democrats recoiled the horrors of dysfunctional statism during the stagflation of the late ’70s.
A nice way to track this directional shift (from the culture to the economy) in the rebellion against authority is to look at the UCLA Freshman survey from 1967 to 1980: Boomer freshmen born in the late ’40s were 3-to-1 more likely to say the most important goal in life is “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” rather than “be financially well off”; by the time to you get to last-wave Boomer and first-wave Xer freshmen (yes, Jonesers), the split is 2-to-1 the other way. Yet by 1983 and 1984, everyone started to climb onto the same page. Republican Ronald Reagan brought the Beach Boys to the White House (amazing to recall how controversial this was!), showing that the uptight GOP was coming to terms with Good Vibrations. And hippies were turning into yuppies (with “babies on board”), while a fair number of New Deal veterans were voting for lower taxes, showing that statist Democrats were coming to terms with Free Agency. In Reagan’s first term, the battle was still raging. By the beginning of his second, the battle was over. And so a new turning was born.
For a long answer, take a close look at The Fourth Turning, pages 199 through 207. I think Bill and I did a pretty good job defending 1984 as a pivotal year.
In 1984 Steve Jobs’ Apple came out with a lousy computer but a brilliant ad. The iconic slogan: “1984 won’t be like 1984.” The ad instantly appealed to everyone (hippies and yuppies) and showed just how much everyone agreed that the Establishment was dead—and how much everyone was comfortable with that.