Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Communication

Major Professor

Marcy Chvasta, Ph.D.

Keywords

New Age spirituality, The Law of Attraction, Abstraction, Positive Thinking, Conservatism

Abstract

I am investigating a New Age spiritual movement called the Law of Attraction that has been the source of recent media attention due to the recent publication of a self-help book called The Secret. The book investigates this phenomenon, which is a theory that takes positive thinking to the extreme. The theory states that reality can be literally manifested through one's thoughts. I am interested in this trend because it supports consumerist values, entrepreneurship, and self-actualization while using socialist rhetoric to promote capitalist values. I am also interested in the implications that this rhetoric holds for women and marginalized groups. I will investigate how the theory draws on quotes from spiritual leaders, famous scientists, and revered world figures and abstracts their meanings by placing them in a paradigm for their own use. I will also look at how they use the authority of science and an appeal to traditionally Christian language to promote blind faith in this principle. I will look at how this movement positions consumerism and consumption as a means of self-actualization and spiritual salvation and analyze how the theory lends itself to the ideals of capitalism. Finally, I will emphasize how the Law of Attraction disregards women and marginalized groups by ignoring systemic restrains by focusing only on the power of the individual with a blatant disregard for social institutions and systems. This project will be a textual rhetorical analysis that will incorporate an ethnographic study, textual analysis, and a critical theoretical approach to theory. The goal of this project is to interrogate a contemporary self-help and New Age spiritual movement that is symptomatic of the contemporary preoccupation with self-actualization and the discourse of positive-thinking.

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