New Religious Movements in Global Perspective: A Systems Theoretical Approach

Klenk, Moritz (2012). New Religious Movements in Global Perspective: A Systems Theoretical Approach. Zeitschrift für junge Religionswissenschaft, 7(7), pp. 40-58. Zeitschrift für junge Religionswissenschaft 10.4000/zjr.364

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This essay provides a systems theoretical perspective on the contentious debate on the term ›New Religious Movement‹ (NRM). Based on the systems theory, according to Niklas Luhmann amongst others, the essay analyses the general problems of defining NRMs. It identifies three different problems, in form of the indeterminacy of the three parts of the term, namely ›new‹, ›religious‹ and ›move­ ment‹. Seeking to solve these problems the essay argues in favour of a systems theoretical definition of NRM as a religious variation of a special type of social system, called New Social Movement. This definition solves the discussed issues of the term by re-defining NRM as a special type of communication system (Move­ ment) that gets its form by a particular form of mobilisation of communication for religious issues (Religious). Furthermore, NRMs must be seen as a product of the functional differentiated society evolving from the late 17th century (New). The last section, finally, puts the new definition into a wider context of globalisation by taking the theory of World Society (Niklas Luhmann/Rudolf Stichweh) into account. It discusses NRMs as ›globalised globalisers‹, which means as a product of the globalised World Society that at the same time re-affects the processes of globalisation themselves and thereby can be seen as a globalising driving force of a world religion system. With its analytical and theoretical analysis the essay seeks to outline new possibilities for further research and indicates the benefits of the sys­ tems theoretical approach for the scientific study of religion with special regard to NRMs.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute for the Science of Religion

UniBE Contributor:

Klenk, Moritz


200 Religion




Zeitschrift für junge Religionswissenschaft




Moritz Ferdinand Klenk

Date Deposited:

19 Mar 2018 16:22

Last Modified:

03 Nov 2019 23:30

Publisher DOI:





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