chapter  3
NRM studies
From 1965 to 1979
ByW. Michael Ashcraft
Pages 29

The chapter first presents a historical introduction that contextualizes the modern study of NRMs within the era of the Counterculture, when many NRMs emerged. Four trends help explain why the study of NRMs exploded when it did. One was the Counterculture. Another was the influx of Asian immigrants and their religions after 1965. A third was the occult revival of the mid-twentieth century, and finally, the growing popularity of therapeutic groups. During this period, sociologists cast about for useful theories to help them understand the rise of NRMs: social constructivism, cultic milieu, and resource mobilization theory. At this time, church/sect theory became largely unusable. Two non-sociological groups of scholars are also highlighted: liberal Protestant scholars, and history of religions scholars. The latter relied on comparison as a method for studying religions. Macro studies focused on how NRMs related to larger society. A famous term from these studies was the new religious consciousness. And still others attended to micro studies, especially examining the question of why people joined NRMs. Here studies of conversion became important. Finally, other studies at the micro level included the issue of failed prophecy.