The Legal Cultures of Europe
Sociolegal scholars have become increasingly interested in comparative legal cultures, largely under the hypotheses that what people think about the law and the values embedded therein has something to do with how they behave and, ultimately, some consequences for the larger political and legal systems. For instance, attitudes toward the rule of law no doubt influence (though they do not determine) people's willingness to comply with laws. Most agree that one cannot understand the role of law in society without understanding something of legal cultures. We present an investigation into the legal cultures of the countries of the European Union. Drawing on mass surveys conducted within each of the countries (including a separate sample in East Germany), we explore popular attitudes toward various dimensions of law: support for the rule of law; perceptions that law is a nonneutral, repressive force; and support for individual liberty. Although our analysis focuses on national differences, we also explore within-system variation (e.g., across various socioeconomic strata). Ultimately, our purpose is to document cross-national differences in legal cultures and to take some tentative steps toward explaining the origins of these differences.
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