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.

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Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS)
Journal of Contemporary Religion
Department of Sociology

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