Lack of Rights Consciousness in the Legal Cultures of Central-Europe and Balkans

Lack of Rights Consciousness in the Legal Cultures of Central-Europe and Balkans. Myth or Reality? A comparative legal cultures project (NKFI-125520)


During the 1980s, Socialist legal sociology argued that the Hungarian legal culture is deeply pervaded by the lack of rights consciousness (a jogosultság kultúra hiánya). Especially, András Sajó emphasized the importance of this distortion in his opus magnum, when submitting that the relevance of legal arguments in ordinary disputes was drastically reduced, and people only referred to law if they intended to invite the state, as a strong source of authority, to take part in the conflict management. In sum, speculation over empirical data indicated that the external Hungarian legal culture, in a Friedmannian sense, had several unique features as compared to the ideal Western setting.

A former broad-scale research project (OTKA 105552 – Legal Culture in Hungary, Theory and Empirical Research) trying to map the general setting and characteristic features of legal culture in Hungary have already addressed this problem partially. However, the question - If someone’s claim is justified by the laws which kind of behavior is better for her or him in a local or a state office? If she/he behaves modestly and refers to her/his poor situation or if she/he acts consciously and warns the officer to the details of the laws? – devoted to measure the level of rights consciousness in the Hungarian population proved to be ineffective practically, as it provided us with highly counter-intuitive results. Namely, the ratio of the answers suggested that, in general, Hungarian people are extremely rights-conscious and strongly prefer legal dispute resolution.

Therefore, this research project is designed to capture this distortion of the Hungarian legal culture in a more-refined and detailed way. Contrary to the earlier survey providing a general overview of the Hungarian legal culture, this project will be much more focused as it will be dedicated solely to the measurement of rights consciousness. Further, in order to get a more intelligible and reliable framework, it will also have a comparative scope. Besides Hungary, the future questionnaire will also be used in surveying the Austrian and Serbian attitudes in this respect. Austria is chosen to the country pool because it is still part of the Central-European region, however its post-World War II historico-cultural development has had an entirely different character from the other two countries, Hungary and Serbia. Furthermore, Serbia is added to the countries studied as it represents a society with strong cultural links to Central-Europe, especially to Hungary, however the modern historico-cultural experiences are rather different from those of the two other countries and the Serbian society has strong orthodox Christian roots establishing a different mentality. Lastly, it has to be mentioned that these three countries are comparable on both a population, cultural and historical scale.

The research team

The project is managed by three fellows of Centre for Social Sciences.

Attila Bartha

Balázs Fekete (head of the project)

György Gajduschek

An external research network composed of regional experts also helps the project:

Petra Burai (European Center for Not-for-Profit Law)

Mateja Čehulić (University of Zagreb Faculty of Law)

Dario Čepo (University of Zagreb Faculty of Law)

Csaba Győry (Max Planck Institue for Foreign and International Criminal Law)

István H. Szilágyi (Pázmány Péter Catholic University Faculty of Law)

Marek Mikus (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Antonija Petričušić (University of Zagreb Faculty of Law)

Mojca M. Plesničar (Institute of Criminology Ljubljana)

Tilen Štajnpihler Božič (Faculty of Law in Ljubljana)

Danilo Vuković (University of Belgrade Faculty of Law)