Explaining the Growth of the New Age Movement…

Steve Bruce points out that the New Age mostly appeals to successful, highly educated, middle class individuals, especially those working in the creative and expressive professions. The kind of individualist beliefs espoused by the New Age Movement fit in well with the world view of such individuals. The doctrine of self-generated success fits their experience of life so far, as they believe they have driven their own success through their own efforts, and New Age practices are a means of achieving even further success.

Bruce further points out that most New Age practices have been stripped of the need for any significant level of self-discipline – all that is required to develop one’s potential is to attend a weekly class, or engage in 20 minutes of yoga or meditation every day. There is no requirement to make any drastic life-changes (like many of the World Rejecting NRMs) and so this fits in well with the busy life styles which most people lead.

In short, Bruce argues that the New Age Movement fits the extremely individualistic nature of late modern societies.

Paul Heelas suggest four reasons why the the New Age Movement has grown in popularity in the Late Modern era:

  1. Modernity has given people a multiplicity of roles, many of which contradict each other, and many people as a result have fragmented identities. The New Age Movement offers people a chance to construct a coherent identity
  2. Consumer culture has created a ‘culture of discontent’ as people fail to find satisfaction in the products and services they consume – the New Age Movement offers an alternative way of seeking perfection, but still offering a choice.
  3. Rapid social changes associated with modernity lead people to seeking security.
  4. The decline of traditional religion has meant people have little alternative.

Ultimately the New Age offers a balance of solutions to those who both experience modernity as an iron cage and a crumbling cage – it offers people freedom, but within a structure they themselves construct.

It also offers people the chance to pursue both ‘utilitarian individualism’ and ‘expressive individualism’, just in different and potentially more satisfying ways than those options offered through consumer culture.

 

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