reasons for the growth of NAMs/NRMs

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Practical reasons

The two main practical reasons are: Key to success and Escape.

Heelas argues that World Affirming NRM’s and New Age Movements appeal to those who feel they are missing something in their lives Even though these groups tend to be affluent; university educated; socially integrated; and middle class, they seek and pay for techniques to find their ‘inner selves’. (e.g. Scientology)

Wallis believes these groups appeal because they offer knowledge, techniques and therapies to unlock potential, reduce stress and find career success along with spiritual and personal fulfilment.

Barker argues that membership can be a short term practical solution to escape difficult circumstances. World Rejecting NRMs offer a type of substitute family; providing comfort and support.



This is the process where religious thinking, practice and institutions lose social significance.

Weber stated that modern society suffered from a ‘disenchantment of the world’ where increased belief in science and technology has undermined religious beliefs and reduced their value in society.

Giddens argues that many traditional churches and denominations have watered down their beliefs to try to fit in with a more secular world. Some members have left churches as they have become less spiritual. They then search for comfort and a sense of community in smaller, more personal NRMs.

Bruce believes that the growth of NAMs is a result of some people’s loss of faith in traditional religious leaders and beliefs. World Affirming NRMs and NAMs may provide a refuge for those seeking the spiritual, firm beliefs and commitment in a secular society.

Postmodern Society






Filling the ‘vacuum of meaning’

Heelas states that the rise of NAMs is a way for individuals to fill what he calls a ‘vacuum of meaning’ – membership provides new sources of meaning and purpose for individuals filling gaps in their identity or beliefs.
Lyotard argued that the loss of faith in the metanarratives (the big story or understanding of the universe) such as science and what Berger called the ‘universes of meaning’ (Provided by traditional religious ideas) have left a gap in some people’s lives which NRMs can fill.
Bauman believes that there has been a growth in NRMs due to a ‘crisis of meaning’ in postmodern society (lots of different contradicting beliefs & meanings making up our identity).

Identity formation

Postmodernists believe that traditional sources of identity such as social class etc. have become fragmented and so people form their own identities through the lifestyles they create and their consumption patterns. This includes the various beliefs they buy into such as Feng Shui. Joining NRMs/NAMs helps to meet personal


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