NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Why alternative religion has so little impact on politics?

Pål Ketil Botvar

In 1995 the Norwegian premier minister Torbjørn Jagland gave a speech in which he stated that alternative medicine should be integrated into the health care system and treated equally with school medicine. He also told the nation about his own positive experiences related to homeopathy. His statement was and still is highly controversial. Years later, in 2007, the Norwegian princess Martha Louise announced that she had started a school called Astarte (an ancient goddess) that offers a three year education in reading, healing and contact with angels. Both Torbjørn Jagland and Martha Louise have been called New Agers.
Despite of prominent spokesmen and high media attention New Age or alternative religion has not yet become an important factor in Norwegian politics. In this paper I discuss some of the reasons for this. My point of departure is the discussion about “political cleavages”. According to Bartolini & Mair (1990) certain conditions have to be fulfilled before an issue or interest will develop into a political cleavage. The three main elements are “organization”, “collective identity” and “social-structural basis”. In this paper I discuss to what degree these preconditions are met when it comes to the New Age or alternative spirituality.