Beyond the spiritual supermarket : the social and public significance of New Age spirituality
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ABSTRACT This article argues that New Age spirituality is substantially less unambiguously individualistic and more socially and publicly significant than today’s sociological consensus acknowledges. Firstly, an uncontested doctrine of self-spirituality, characterised by sacralisation of the self and demonisation of social institutions, provides the spiritual milieu with ideological coherence and paradoxically accounts for its overwhelming diversity. Secondly, participants undergo a process of socialisation, gradually adopting this doctrine of self-spirituality and eventually reinforcing it by means of standardised legitimations. Thirdly, spirituality has entered the public sphere of work, aiming at a reduction of employees’ alienation to increase both their happiness and organisational effectiveness. A radical ‘sociologisation’ of New Age research is called for to document how the doctrinal ideal of self-spirituality is socially constructed, transmitted, and reinforced and critically to deconstruct rather than reproduce sociologically naive New Age rhetoric about the primacy of personal authenticity.