No. 6




The Role of Norms of Law in Different Cultural Contexts

17 December 2002


RiTo No. 6, 2002

Human society is a complicated system in which orientation would be impossible without universal standards of behavior.

Many types of social norms regulate people’s behavior in society. They reflect typical attitudes that are characteristic of the majority of a given social group or of all of society. Social standards of behavior should be viewed as part of the social structure and in the larger picture can be divided into two groups – enforced and unenforced. In the case of a given social norm, it is considered to be in effect when the members of the group or society observe the norm, and when adherence is greeted with approval and neglect with disapproval.

The article gives an overview of the role of legal norms in the European cultural context and the place of legal norms in the Anglo-American legal system, and legal norms in Asia and Africa.

The author points out that there exist legal systems today where the main regulators of human behavior are legal standards, but that there are also societies where customs, morals and religious values prevail as the primary determinant of human behavior. The first type of system is often considered a civilized, modern system; in the case of the second, the question of modernization continues to be actual, a question of which modern legal system they should adopt.

Despite the special place of legal norms in the system of social norms, we must not forget that many different kinds of social norms exist alongside legal ones on an everyday level. Thus it is still worth studying the genesis and sources of law in social life, and to identify which types of societal relations require legal regulation, what kind of regulations to use and what phenomena should be left for other elements to control. Reducing the amount of legislation does not necessarily spell descent into chaos, but more will be expected from standards of reliability, morals and honor.

Full article in Estonian