Lack of Rights Consciousness in the Legal Cultures of Central-Europe and Balkans: Myth or Reality?

Funding: OTKA  
Duration: October 1, 2017 - September 30, 2020 (35 months)

Legal sociology literature of the 80s argued that the Hungarian legal culture is dictated by a low level of rights consciousness. When facing unsolvable issues, people would only refer to law if the state, as a strong source of authority, took part in the conflict management. Over time, however, quantitative findings revealed that the statement might be a myth. Facing the oxymoron, the researcher Balázs Fekete sought to uncover what factors shape rights consciousness of Hungarians today—and to test whether the low level of rights consciousness has persisted in post-socialist Hungary if it is at all true—in the project “Lacks of Rights Consciousness in the Legal Cultures of Central-Europe and Balkans: Myth or Reality?”.

To find out the answer, he has explored new international comparative case studies and plans to mix different methods. He chose Serbia, Hungary, and the Netherlands for this comparison because of their historical and cultural similarities and yet different development cycles: Serbia’s democracy took time to develop in the post-socialist period; the Netherlands had a smoother transition to modern democracy. His decision is grounded in novel methods; the goal is to spot problems in previous legal culture research. For that, Fekete has applied experimental vignette surveys, involving expert interviews in each country, to map different patterns of rights consciousness.

The task will ground further understanding of the role of rights consciousness in legal culture, what peculiarities each country has and what is the the impact of socio-political transition for legal culture. Besides filling a knowledge gap and nudging further research on the topic, the results may buttress informed policy decisions among lawmakers on issues and flaws in the legal order. He foresees several outputs to achieve this target, by publishing five English journal articles, making available valid survey data on the countries, writing an English manuscript on the comparative analysis of rights consciousness in the region, giving two presentations in regional a Western-European countries, and exploring media coverage in Hungarian.

For more details about the project, check out the reports published by the Newsletter of the Research Committee on Sociology of Law (International Sociological Association):



Principal investigator (PI):

Balázs Fekete   
Research Fellow
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