The spiritual revolution and the New Age gender puzzle: the sacralisation of the self in Late Modernity (1980-2000)
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A first aim of the present chapter is to provide evidence for the spread of spirituality during the last few decades by studying spiritual beliefs and self-designations among the general populations of Western countries. This chapter’s more important second aim is to refine Houtman and Mascini’s (2002) theory that the spread of spirituality is caused by a process of detraditionalisation. This refinement is called for, because in its original form it cannot explain the high levels of affinity with spirituality among women (although it does a good job in explaining those among the younger age cohorts and the well educated). With men and women being identical when it comes to levels of post-traditionalism, the question why women nevertheless display more affinity with spirituality than men remains ‘an intriguing and theoretically important puzzle to be solved’ (Houtman and Mascini, 2002: 468). Solving this ‘gender puzzle’ (Heelas et al., 2004) requires gendering the theory of detraditionalisation (see also Woodhead 2005, forthcoming 2006). The second aim of the present chapter, in short, is to develop and test a gendered version of the theory of detraditionalisation.
Delivered as a keynote lecture by the first author at the conference Religion and Gender, BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group, Lancaster University, April 11-13, 2005, this chapter has benefited greatly from research conducted during his visiting professorship at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille, France (November 2003). The authors further thank Sabine Lauderbach, Peter Mascini and Peter Achterberg for their useful comments on an earlier draft – especially Peter Achterberg’s statistical advice was as useful as ever. Finally, they wish to acknowledge Linda Scheelbeek, because it was her Master’s thesis (2003) that put the first author (who acted as her supervisor) on the track of the solution to the gender puzzle proposed here.