The nonformative elements of religious life: questioning the ‘sociology of spirituality’ paradigm

Matthew Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Sociological assertions of religious vitality in Euro-American societies have developed a paradigm of spirituality in which, following earlier studies of the New Age, a distinction is drawn between external authority and self-authority. Methodologically and theoretically problematic, this paradigm diverts attention from people’s social practices and interactions, especially in relation to multiple religious authorities. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork with an English religious network, and building upon the work of Pierre Bourdieu, this paper considers situations in which multiple authorities tend to relativize each other. Conceptualizing this in terms of nonformativeness - the lack of authorities’ abilities formatively to shape religious identity, habitus, and competition over religious capital - a new understanding of individual secularization emerges that questions assertions of vitality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-248
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Compass
Volume56 (2)
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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