“New Age Capitalism: Making Money East of Eden”



Kimberly Lau
192 pages, $19.95 paper

The pursuit of health and wellness has become a fundamental and familiar part of everyday life in America. We are surrounded by an enticing world of products, practices, and promotions assuring health and happiness — cereal boxes claim that their contents can reduce the risk of heart disease, bars of aromatherapy soap seek to wash away our stresses, and newspapers celebrate the wonders of the latest superfoods and herbal remedies.

No longer confined to the domain of Western medicine, suggestions for healthy living often turn to alternatives originating in distant times and places. Diets from ancient or remote groups are presented as cures for everything from colds to cancer; exercise regimens based on Eastern philosophies are heralded as paths to physical health and spiritual well-being.

In “New Age Capitalism,” Kimberly Lau, professor of women’s studies at the University of Utah, examines the ideological work that has created this billion-dollar business and allowed “Eastern” and other non-Western traditions to be coopted by Western capitalism.

American companies have commodified alternative health practices for a public longing not only for health and wellness but also for authenticity, tradition, and a connection to the cultures of an imagined Edenic past. Although consumers might prefer to buy into “authentic” non-Western therapies, “New Age Capitalism” argues that the market economy makes this goal unattainable.

Communications Professor Joseph Turow noted, “‘New Age Capitalism’ reveals the sometimes hilarious ironies and contradictions that come with using the capitalist marketplace as a place to critique capitalism.”

—University of Pennsylvania Press

Originally published on November 9, 2000