This book, first published in 1984, examines the whole range of new religious movements which appeared in the 1960s and 1970s in the West. It develops a wide-ranging theory of these new religions which explains many of their major characteristics. Some of the movements are well-known, such as Scientology, Krishna Consciousness, and the Unification Church. Others such as the Process, Meher Baba, and 3-HO are much less known. While some became international, others remained local; in other ways, too, such as style, belief, organisation, they exhibit enormous diversity.
The movements studied here are classified under three ideal types, world-rejecting, world-affirming and world-accommodating, and from here the author develops a theory of the origins, recruitment base, characteristics, and development patterns which they display. The book offers a critical exploration of the theories of the new religions and analyses the highly contentious issue of whether they reflect the process of secularisation, or whether they are a countervailing trend marking the resurgence of religion in the West.