Possession, Power and the New Age: Ambiguities of Authority in Neoliberal Societies, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Possession, Power and the New Age

Ambiguities of Authority in Neoliberal Societies, 1st Edition

By Matthew Wood


212 pages

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Hardback: 9780754633396
pub: 2007-06-28
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315601588
pub: 2016-04-08
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This book provides a new sociological account of contemporary religious phenomena such as channelling, holistic healing, meditation and divination, which are usually classed as part of a New Age Movement. Drawing on his extensive ethnography carried out in the UK, alongside comparative studies in America and Europe, Matthew Wood criticises the view that such phenomena represent spirituality in which self-authority is paramount. Instead, he emphasises the role of social authority and the centrality of spirit possession, linking these to participants' class positions and experiences of secularisation. Informed by sociological and anthropological approaches to social power and practice, especially the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault, Wood's study explores what he calls the nonformative regions of the religious field, and charts similarities and differences with pagan, spiritualist and Theosophical traditions.


’Matthew Wood’s efforts to make ’new age’ phenomena grist to higher order comparative theorising are to be welcomed and applauded. His analysis should make a considerable impact among scholars of ’new age’ and help to steer the field into more productive theoretical waters in the social sciences. I recommend this monograph unreservedly to all students of ’new age’, contemporary religion, and theory and method in the study of religion.’ Journal of Contemporary Religion

About the Author

Matthew Wood is Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen's University Belfast, UK.

About the Series

Theology and Religion in Interdisciplinary Perspective Series

Theology and Religion in Interdisciplinary Perspective Series
Creativity through shared perspectives lies at the heart of Ashgate's series Theology and Religion in Interdisciplinary Perspective. Central religious and theological topics can be raised to a higher order of expression and clarity when approached through interdisciplinary perspectives; this series aims to provide a pool of potential theories and worked out examples as a resource for ongoing debate, fostering intellectual curiosity rather than guarding traditional academic boundaries and extending, rather than acting as a simple guide to, an already well-defined field. Major theological issues of contemporary society and thought, as well as some long established ideas, are explored in terms of current research across appropriate disciplines and with an international compass. The books in the series will prove of particular value to students, academics, and others who see the benefit to be derived from bringing together ideas and information that often exist in relative isolation.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Comparative Religion