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

New Age, Thomas Luckmann, privatization thesis, socialization, spirituality, work environment
Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS)
Journal of Contemporary Religion
Accepted Manuscript
Department of Sociology

Aupers, S.D, & Houtman, D. (2006). Beyond the spiritual supermarket : the social and public significance of New Age spirituality. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 1–31. Retrieved from