The Silent 

The Generations of Americans

The Cycles of American Generations

20th Century Generational Cohorts and Their Personalities

The Characteristics of American Generation Types

First a prefatory note for all the people coming here to learn about the theory of Generations and, especially, the so-called "fourth turning."

According to the Straus and Howe theory, a crisis is due. There are people in Washington who think they are the instruments of that event, and they might be, BUT these people are Boomers, that inward-looking, self-centered, self-indulgent, and massive group of people who during the 20th century have by sheer weight of numbers in the schools and markets affected much of American culture and institutions. Moreover however, the theory of generations and cycles is not about individuals, but the mass action of people who share an almost unconscious view of life shared more or less vaguely by their generations. The election of 2016 was wrought by Boomers who felt their power of numbers slipping away and X-Gen (larger than Boom) who feel cheated and screwed economically. Early cohort Millenials voted the opposite way generally, as did IN FACT a substantial majority of Americans. And so there seems to be a concocted "crisis" being precipitated out of the imaginings of a small cohort of Boomers whose egos lead them to believe they have the force of history on their side.

They do not.

The "fourth turning," if there is to be one, will be the result of major and impersonal forces. The main forces at play at this writing (early 2017) are globalizing economics and the disparities that are all very obvious between the 1st world and 4th world economies and cultures, particularly in the 1st world the rise of computerized and roboticized modes of production and service, and in the 4th world unmanagably large populations. There are character players out there like the leader of North Korea, the leadership of ISIS, the ayatollahs of Iran, the Saudi ultra-conservatives, the rigidly obstinate ultra-orthodox in Israel, the plutocratic and revanchist leaders of modern Russia, all and any of whom can precipitate a world crisis. You should add into that mix the leadership of western financial institutions whose interests were in 2008 and now continue to be primarily the acquisition of money, then quarterly report bottom lines and to reverse the inevitable losses their Boom and early X-gen generations are feeling.

This website is not about the "fourth turning," mostly because I believe as I have written further on, that the essential machinery of the Straus and Howe theory has been dismantled by their books, but mostly by the rapid and pervasive homogenization of American and western European cultures by way of the mass media and social networks. What remains is the curious nurture cycle here and abroad. If you want to know what the authors said about the "fourth turning" you really have to read their book. I was not impressed.

Nearly fifty million Americans were born to the Silent Generation in America from the beginning of 1925 through 1942. The earliest Silent was 14 when Hitler invaded Poland. Before them were the so-called G.I. Generation and after them the Boom Generation, then the X, and now the Millennial. No generation has so small a reputation as does the Silent. No generation since the American Civil War has been so misunderstood and underestimated.

Silents are about 99.9% retired at this point. Almost no Silent commands an industry, a battlefield, anything at all. They will have mostly gone well into their retirements and off the world stage. So, who were these strange folk named "Silent," these people of whom the Great Depression and WWII demanded so much of their youth? They were an "adaptive" generation in the Strauss and Howe taxonomy. That means they were primarily pragmatic. Silent, though? I think Wm. Manchester was complaining, rather than explaining.

It was Wm. Manchester's label that stuck. Philip Wylie's "Generation Vipers" was over the top. We were not all sullen and disorderly vipers, delinquents running amok in the post-war Levittown era of readjustment. Manchester was amazed at the older cohorts of our generation, that they did not raise their voices against Communism and/or McCarthyism, that we did not seem to notice the awful racism of the preceding generations, that we were silent about using atomic bombs on civilian populations in Japan. But, of course, we were alarmed by all this, and needed to get a firm grip on the levers of power before we spoke. The world into which we emerged was dangerous, and we were not stupid.

Take a good look at the Silents: these people whose adult cohorts finally brought you civil rights, an unparalleled national wealth in the arts and commerce, and almost unimaginable advances in science and technology.

You cannot be recruited to this generation. If the Strauss and Howe theory proves to be correct, right about now a new "Adaptive" generation is forming. You might want to see what that means to you. I ask you to take this visit seriously. According to the theory presented here, big trouble is headed our way. Knowledge about generations will play an enormous part in the outcome.

On the left you will see the theory of generations as expressed by William Strauss and Neil Howe. On the right you will find lists of Silents.

Much of the information and many of the ideas in this site have been taken directly from Generations: A Future History of America from 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Persons who wish to link to this site may do so, on the condition that they provide a standard acknowledgement at their own site of the book, its authors, and of the additional contributions of yours truly.

  • Heartfelt thanks to Mr. Jackson Rannells for his tireless labors in the Encyclopedia Britannica (and elsewhere) for the majority of contributions to the lists of people from the Silent Generation. Send in your ideas, please.

    More ... About the theory and this website

    Copyright © James R. Brett, 1996-2019.
  • Silents in Government and Politics

    Silents in the Arts, Entertainment, & Sports

    Silents in Science, Technology, and Industry

    Honorary Members and Personae Non Grata

    Further Reading