Challenging modernity: Theorizing the "New Age" as political ideology and social engagement

Caza, Brian P.

     This project is an attempt to understand critical responses generated by modernity at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe and India. In particular, the dissertation is an effort to theorize particular elements in what is initially considered a generalized "countercultural" reaction and eventually isolated as the beginnings of the "New Age" movement.
     The dissertation organizes its treatment of the "New Age" around the general issues of personal autonomy and self actualization on the one hand and social solidarity and structural determinants on the other. Analysis moves from a layout of modernity across several categories (e.g. industrialism, rationalism, capitalism, nationalism, etc.) and a counter-positional set of features which come to define the "New Age" perspective. From here a selection of "New Age" figures are depicted based on a shared set of activities in the field of education. Through this commonality of practice an argument is generated for seeing the "New Age" as a social movement with the political potential inherent in a social movement as a form of collective action geared toward resistant mobilization of forces in society.
     The remainder of this project proposes three angles from which the New Age might be seen as a social movement. In the first instance, the New Age as an extension of the ideas of the Enlightenment is investigated with the argument being that at this level the New Age was a movement primarily concerned with the self-actualization of individuals. The next vantage point positions this New Age movement within the field of utopian studies as an expression of ideal societies and "intentionality" of social activists in actualizing particular visions--a "NEW AGE". Finally, the New Age movement can be seen in light of recent work on "globalization", namely the activation of civil society through the establishment of transnational networks to further the specific goal of the New Age outlined throughout previous sections.

Rudolph, Susanne