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10 - New Age and the spirit of capitalism: energy as cognitive currency

from Part II - Comparing New Age beliefs and practices

Lisbeth Mikaelsson
Affiliation:
University of Bergen
Steven J. Sutcliffe
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Ingvild Sælid Gilhus
Affiliation:
University of Bergen, Norway
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Summary

COMMERCIALIZATION AND THE SPIRIT OF NEW AGE

In his classic work linking economy and religion, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1920), Max Weber proposed that the Puritan teaching of predestination and its ideals of hard work, moral discipline and frugality combined with rational capital accumulation were determining elements in the successful rise of early modern capitalism. Since this book was first published, capitalism has become the dominant economic system in the world, almost mysteriously dynamic and all-pervading, and economic mind-sets and instrumental rationality are increasingly invading areas formerly outside the sphere of financial calculation. While hard work still must be considered conducive to economic success, the other values listed by Weber as “the spirit of capitalism” more or less counteract the consumer capitalism that reigns today. Peter Berger makes the obvious, but fitting comment that values which function well in one period of economic development may not be functional in another period (Berger 1999: 17). Lavish consumption is a cornerstone in Western capitalist economies, and a frugality ethic is obviously not a sustaining attitude for such a system. In a parallel way, the theological exclusivism and morality of Puritanism and its likes are unable to legitimate the multireligious commodification of today. How religious ideas and values influence economic development in a society is a pertinent question. An equally interesting issue, however, concerns how religion is shaped by economic conditions.

Type
Chapter
Information
New Age Spirituality
Rethinking Religion
, pp. 160 - 173
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2013

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