History is full of conflicts which persist over generations.

  • Inter-Christian religious wars drive more than a century of conflict that spanned the globe.
  • Inter-Empire wars over colonization rights drove another century of warfare.
  • Carthago Delenda Est!

(We could argue the precise dates, or whether any given skirmish was part of a given historical trend; I'm not sure that is relevant to the question, although someone may be brilliant enough to spot the false assumption and provide a splendid answer).

Is there a general theory of these kinds of conflict?
Is there a way to classify a given skirmish within a series of global conflicts? (or is that only available ex post facto?) Is there a way to tell whether a given conflict is escalating or diminishing?

Is there a common thread in the resolution of these multi-generational conflicts?

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    Far too broad. There have been conflicts which do not recur: those where one side was exterminated (Carthago delenda est). Otherwise your point is the old adage that all history teaches is that we do not learn from it. – sds May 29 '14 at 18:44
  • Hypothetical questions are against the rules. However, to answer your question: YES, there will be another big war, and sooner than you think. If you are located in a densely populated urban area, you may want to move to a more suburban area in the interests of self preservation. – Tyler Durden May 29 '14 at 20:54
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is hypothetical. – Tyler Durden May 29 '14 at 20:55
  • Perhaps a better question is do conflicts ever recur in history, except in the most superficial way. – Oldcat May 29 '14 at 21:10
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    While broad, I'd actually like to see answers to this question, it's pretty interesting, maybe it's better suited to a different stack exchange. – Ally May 30 '14 at 12:51

Some academics have studied this issue. The very popular theory today concerning it is the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory or the Four Turnings, which I believe only applies to US history. They created this theory to try to help some of the problems which will occur, since we can expect them.

Strauss and Howe lay the groundwork for the theory in their 1991 book Generations, which retells the history of America as a series of generational biographies going back to 1584.1 In their 1997 book The Fourth Turning, the authors expand the theory to focus on a fourfold cycle of generational types and recurring mood eras in American history.[2]

These are the theorist who believe that the Millennial Generation, defined as those that graduated high school starting in 2000, are the historical analogue to the WWII's Greatest Generation. They are the result of the "Fourth Turning."

today's teens and young adults are recasting the image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged. They write that Millennials are held to higher standards than adults apply to themselves; they're a lot less violent, vulgar, and sexually charged than the teen culture older people are producing for them. Over the next decade, they will transform what it means to be young.

Here are the Turnings:

First Turning is a High (Silent Generation). This is a post-Crisis era when 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 the conformity.

the Second Turning is an Awakening (Baby Boomers). 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 personal authenticity. Young activists look back at the previous High as an era of cultural and spiritual poverty

the Third Turning is an Unraveling (Gen X). The mood of this era is in many ways the opposite of a High: Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Highs come after Crises, when society wants to coalesce and build. Unravelings come after Awakenings, when society wants to atomize and enjoy.[24]

the Fourth Turning is a Crisis. This is an era in which institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression redirects towards community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group

(Apologies for so much cut and paste) There are many other theorists that have looked at the reasons for the cycles of peace and war in societies, as well, but I suggest starting here.

  • Let me add, the Fourth Turning generation fought the US Civil War and the American Revolution. It's the "Hero Archetype" so this generation seems to always be fighting in large wars. – Razie Mah May 29 '14 at 20:23
  • In the book "Generations", they state that the American Revolution was led by a Reactive generation aka Third Turning (Patrick Henry, John Adams). This type tends to be the tough realist individuals who "do the dirty work" (similar to the Lost Generation of WWI). The new American nation was built and solidified by a younger "Glorious" or Fourth Turning (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison) who supposedly excel at systems building (analogous to the GI WWII generation). You might say that during the Revolution and WWII, the Third were the leaders and the Fourth were the foot soldiers. – Mike Jun 1 '14 at 20:38

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