فرهنگ رو به افزایش و جهان بینی معنویت معاصر: مطالعه جامعه شناختی از پتانسیل ها و مشکلات برای توسعه پایدار
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|29406||2011||9 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||9484 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Ecological Economics, Volume 70, Issue 6, 15 April 2011, Pages 1057–1065
Several social scientists claim that the rise of the culture of contemporary spirituality is a pivotal part of the gradual but profound change taking place in the Western worldview, both reflecting the larger cultural development, as well as giving shape and direction to it. Its emergence is therefore not to be neglected in attempts to create a more sustainable society. The aim of this study is to generate insight into the culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality and explore its potentials and pitfalls for sustainable development. An investigation of the sociological literature on the so-called “New Age” phenomenon results in a delineation and overview of these and shows that this culture is both a potentially promising force, as well as a phenomenon posing specific risks. A structural–developmental understanding is introduced in order to be able to distinguish between regressive and progressive tendencies in this culture, and comprehend the deeper logic behind the observed potentials and pitfalls. This may serve to facilitate the actualization of the culture's potentials while mitigating its pitfalls, and in that way contribute to the timely challenge of creating a more sustainable society.
Theoretical and empirical insight vis-à-vis worldviews and values is an essential element in approaches aiming to design and support more sustainable development paths for society. Our beliefs about the divine, the spiritual and the transcendent as well as about our role in the world as moral agents shape our sense of duty and responsibility to care for others and for nature (Hulme, 2009). Issues like climate change raise questions with strong moral and ethical dimensions that need to be dealt with in policy-formation and international negotiations (Wardekker et al., 2009). Additionally, research shows that values and beliefs are strong predictors of policy opinion and policy support (Shwom et al., 2010) and tend to be indicative for environmental behavior (e.g. Karp, 1996, Milfont and Duckitt, 2004 and Schultz and Zelezny, 1999). Because everyday consumption choices are deeply enmeshed in a web of non-instrumental motivations, values, emotions, self-conceptions and cultural associations (Sorin, 2010), values and worldviews can also be seen as major drivers in consumer trends and economic spending patterns, including those concerning the green economy. Lastly, the concept of sustainable development itself contains both objective and subjective dimensions, as it can be seen as “a quest for developing and sustaining ‘qualities of life’” (De Vries and Petersen, 2009), which are at least partially shaped by the views and values that individuals and groups hold. However, even though the concept of values has played a significant role in the climate change and sustainable development debates, it tends to be narrowly defined, predominantly referring to monetary worth, relative worth, or a fair return on exchanges, which are typically measured as numerical quantities (De Vries and Petersen, 2009 and O'Brien and Wolf, 2010). Therefore, as O'Brien and Wolf (2010) state, “in relation to climate change, what are still missing from economic-oriented and welfare-based approaches to valuation are the differential subjective values of individuals, societies and cultures regarding the experience and consequences of environmental transformations. Economic concepts such as utility and efficiency cannot capture the often subjective and nonmaterial values affected by climate change” (p.232–233). Therefore, a systematic integration of worldviews and values is argued for in both research and practices concerned with sustainable development. While there are many different possible approaches for investigating worldviews and values in the context of sustainability (see for example O'Brien, 2009, who explores traditional, modern and postmodern worldviews in Norway and their interface with climate adaptation measures), there is a cultural development that may be particularly of interest, as it seems to hold a certain potential for sustainable development (Campbell, 2007, Dryzek, 2005, Hanegraaff, 1996, Heelas, 1996, Ray and Anderson, 2000 and Taylor, 2010). This is the rise of the culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality. Several social scientists and philosophers claim that a gradual but profound change in the Western worldview is taking place — a change in the direction of a more re-enchanted, post-material, metaphysical or spiritual worldview (Campbell, 2007, Gibson, 2009, Houtman and Mascini, 2002, Inglehart and Welzel, 2005, Partridge, 2005, Ray and Anderson, 2000 and Tarnas, 2007). Some authors speak in this context of a “spiritual revolution” (Heelas and Woodhead, 2005) or a “spiritual turn” (Houtman and Aupers, 2007). As Inglehart and Welzel (2005, p. 31) put it, based on the results of the World Values Survey, the largest existing worldwide, cross-cultural, longitudinal data-set on (changes in) cultural beliefs, values and worldviews: Although the authority of the established churches continues to decline, during the past twenty years the public of postindustrial societies have become increasingly likely to spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of life. Whether one views these concerns as religious depends on one's definition of religion, but it is clear that the materialistic secularism of industrial society is fading. There is a shift from institutionally fixed forms of dogmatic religion to individually flexible forms of spiritual religion. Clearly, the emergence of contemporary spirituality is not just a counter-cultural or marginal phenomenon. On the contrary, as Heelas and Woodhead emphasize, this “spiritual revolution… has taken place in key sectors of the culture” and “has its home within the more general culture of subjective wellbeing whilst also being a relatively distinctive or specialized variant of the more widespread culture” (2005, p.75, 86). Sutcliffe and Bowman (2000) even state that “contrary to predictions that New Age would go mainstream, now it's as if the mainstream is going New Age” (p. 11). The culture of contemporary spirituality appears to be a pivotal part of the change taking place in the Western worldview, both reflecting the larger cultural development, as well as giving shape and direction to it. The emergence of contemporary spirituality is therefore not to be neglected in our aims to create and facilitate the emergence of a more sustainable society and respond to issues like climate change: not only is it a powerful and growing subculture in itself, it is also largely compatible with as well as instructive for the broader cultural development. 1 The aim of this study is therefore to generate insight into the culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality and investigate both its potentials for sustainable development, as well as explore the risks or pitfalls that it poses, predominantly on the basis of the sociological “New Age” literature. As far as I am aware of, no study of this specific terrain has been made before. Additionally, perspectives on the culture of contemporary spirituality are not always comprehensive; the literature on the phenomenon frequently tends toward polarization between critics and adherents. For some, the “New Age” represents a step backwards from the standards of modern rationality towards pre-modern, irrational thinking and the abandonment of the self-responsibility of the individual; it is seen largely as a regressive, reactionary and narcissistic movement (e.g. Lasch, 1978). Others tend to emphasize its noble intentions, qualities and potentials as well as its overall progressive signature (e.g. Ray and Anderson, 2000). However, the former position tends to dominate in social-scientific analyses of the New Age movement (Höllinger, 2004). Because the term New Age has acquired negative connotations both among the general public and among New Agers themselves (Lewis, 1992), I generally prefer the more neutral term “contemporary spirituality” (although I use them interchangeably throughout this article). The use of this term is in line with my aspiration for a more nuanced understanding of this phenomenon in its dignity and its disaster, its ‘grandeur et misère,’ vis-à-vis issues and goals of sustainable development. In Section 3 I will show that a developmental framework is uniquely suitable for making sense of the observed potentials and pitfalls for sustainable development, as it enacts an empowering perspective that inspires to appeal to the potentials while avoiding or mitigating the pitfalls. More generally, this study may shed light on the complex interaction between the more objective, exterior and the more (inter)subjective, interior dimensions of issues, goals and discourses concerned with sustainable development.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
As an exploration of the sociological literature on the “New Age” shows, the culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality proves to be both a potentially promising force in the context of the goals and issues of sustainable development, as well as a cultural phenomenon posing specific risks and pitfalls that should not be ignored. For an overview of these potentials and pitfalls, see Table 1. Some of the primary potentials that the culture of contemporary spirituality holds for sustainable development include an overall rehabilitation of nature, which comes to expression in a preference for organic food and vegetarian diets, natural products and conscious consumerism. This has a double effect: it not only results in less environmental pollution and resource depletion through the greening of individual lifestyles, but it also supports and stimulates (the transition to) a green economy, as it serves as an impetus for companies aiming to win these markets, and a discouragement or even a pounding for companies which are not taking up the environmental challenge. Additionally, the culture of contemporary spirituality tends to result in increased societal support to green political parties, sustainable initiatives and nature- and environmental organizations (see e.g. Dryzek, 2005 and Höllinger, 2004). This is significant, as (electorally) supporting environmental policies and initiatives is probably one of the most significant actions individuals can undertake to support changes in a more environment-friendly and sustainable direction (Brown, 2008). Lastly, the culture of contemporary spirituality tends to result in an overall atmosphere of cultural experimentation, renewal and innovation, which may be crucial in creating the needed transitions to a more sustainable society and economy. According to Rogers' (1995) “diffusion of innovations model,” or the idea of social “tipping points” ( Gladwell, 2000), the influence of innovators and “early adopters” in the larger process of socio-cultural and economic change is considerable. Overall, the results show that the potentials of the culture of contemporary spirituality are closely aligned with the perspectives of Ecological Economics, and may therefore significantly contribute to the ongoing movement to promote sustainability. In contrast, one of the main pitfalls is the culture's association with narcissism, which may manifest in egocentrism, a lack of willingness for sacrifices and the refusal to take responsibility for the environment and the health and eco-social wellbeing of others. Moreover, a proclivity to instrumentalize and commercialize spirituality as mere means for self- and wealth enhancement may also be seen as a possible pitfall of this culture. Lastly, the tendency to regress to or romanticize a mythic, pre-rational consciousness (and society) does not allow the achievements of modernity to be well-integrated — which is likely to result in an alienation of all those who defend the rationalist ideals of the European Enlightenment. This marginalizes its impact in (mainstream) society and potentially contributes to polarization and ‘paradigm wars.’ Introducing a developmental framework may serve to distinguish more regressive from more progressive tendencies within the culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality, thereby potentially providing a deeper insight into the observed potentials and pitfalls. That is to say, I propose that the observed potentials for sustainable development tend to be more consistently associated with more progressive, integrative strands within the culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality, while the pitfalls tend to be more consistently associated with more regressive, monistic (de-differentiative) strands (see Section 3). However, this analytical lens, when used in the messy practice of everyday reality, will probably not result in a clear-cut, “black and white” picture, as potentials and pitfalls will likely be observed emerging together within individuals as well as within the different strands of the movement. Since I have not researched the (empirical) relationship between those two strands and their association with such potentials and pitfalls myself, it is merely a grounded (hypo)thesis emerging from this research, which needs to be further scrutinized. Moreover, as this article is limited to a literature study, further research needs to be conducted to explore the extent to which these potentials and pitfalls are indeed operative, under which conditions they tend to be enacted and how for example policy measures and communicative interventions may support potentials being actualized and pitfalls being mitigated. Lastly, the overall framework and my categorizations of these potentials and pitfalls need to be empirically substantiated and potentially expanded and revised in light of further research. Research such as this may therefore invite a more sophisticated exploration of the phenomenon in the research community. The results presented here suggest that greater attention should be paid to understanding the nuances of this emerging worldview, raising questions as to what contributes to progressive tendencies and what promotes regressive tendencies. Next to that, by contributing to a deeper understanding of its developmental dynamics, this study may function as an invitation for the culture of contemporary spirituality to engage in a critical self-reflection on its pitfalls as well as an acknowledgement and empowerment of its sustainable potentials. The value of this study therefore lies in putting the subject on the agenda and proposing a framework for a more nuanced and pragmatic exploration of an influential cultural phenomenon — a phenomenon that has a substantial, yet largely latent potential for contributing to the timely challenge of sustainable development. More generally, if the described change in worldview and values is indeed taking place, the culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality is not only instrumental for initiating individual, behavioral, cultural and institutional/economic change, but also intrinsic to the process of defining and shaping our understanding of sustainable development itself. As sustainable development refers to “a quest for developing and sustaining ‘qualities of life’” (De Vries and Petersen, 2009), as mentioned in the introduction, a clear challenge for sustainability strategies, policies and practices is “to take into account values that correspond to diverse human needs and multiple perspectives and worldviews. This includes values that many individuals and groups do not currently prioritize, yet which are likely to become important as humans further develop” (O'Brien, 2009, p. 177). These may include, for example, esthetic and spiritual values such as the experience of snow or wilderness, a sense of place or non-dual relationships with other living organisms. Therefore, this study highlights the importance of the interior, (inter)subjective dimension of values, worldviews and culture in the larger sustainability-debate, and explores its potential and limitations for (facilitating) changes in the exterior dimensions of consumer and behavioral, political, institutional and economic change. Lastly, this study may shed light on a possible future trajectory of Western (sub)culture, thereby informing strategists, (ecological) economists and potentially policy-makers (despite their generally short time-horizons) to anticipate and enact strategic pathways toward the actualization and amplification of its potentials, while simultaneously alleviating and mitigating its pitfalls for sustainable development in the twenty-first century.