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The Cultural Significance of New Religious Movements and Globalization: A Theoretical Prolegomenon

Lorne L. Dawson
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 580-595
DOI: 10.2307/1388142
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1388142
Page Count: 16
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The Cultural Significance of New Religious Movements and Globalization: A Theoretical Prolegomenon
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Abstract

Sociologists of religion interested in the possible cultural significance of contemporary new religious movements have tended to focus their analyses on whether these new forms of religious life are or are not agents of modernization and/or secularization. In recent years talk of globalization has been added to these complex concerns. This article outlines the existing debate over the cultural significance of new religious movements (NRMs), and summarizes and criticizes the contribution of globalization theory, as framed by Roland Robertson. Robertson's theory, it is argued, helps to undermine the questionable tendency to identify new religions as either modern or antimodern, secularizing or desecularizing. But it tends to erroneously limit the attribution of cultural significance to movements of religious fundamentalism or renewed orthodoxy. Logically, however, the theory also suggests new ways of attributing cultural significance to more "privatized" modes of new religious life like Scientology or the New Age Movement.

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