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Culture, the Strongest Element in the Political System by Bátor Tietze

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Culture & Society

Culture, the Strongest Element in the Political System

Laws define every step we take nowadays. They define the way we work, the way we travel, and even the way we speak. Apart from these laws, there is another thing that has a huge effect on our lives, namely culture. We live in a cultural revolution as culture changes rapidly, and it is not easy to catch up with it. How do laws change as culture changes, and what effect do they have on our lives? This is the question we strive to answer.

If we look at European countries, every decision coming from the EU has an effect on the member states and therefore on every European citizen. But the cultural differences in the EU actually also appear in the communication and the decisions of the EU. A French politician has a different cultural background and a different way of thinking than a German politician or a Hungarian. So, if the European Parliament creates a new law that applies to every nation in the EU, it carries the cultural background of those politicians who have worked the most on its drafting and had the biggest effect on the legislative process. 

Professor Geoffrey Samuel from the University of Kent wrote in one of his studies that if we want to speak about the cultural effect on the legal system, then we have to find the answers for three fundamental questions. What is meant by ‘law’, by ‘culture’ and by ‘relation’ between law and culture. By answering these questions, I only focus on the political decision making and the practical side of the legal system, and not considering the theoretical side. 

This question is especially prioritized in international law, and in Hungary’s context, in EU law. In every federal system, there is a constant conflict due to the mixture of different cultural backgrounds. And there is a balance in the federal system, which has no effect on the cultural impact in the decision making and the legal system. The equality in the federal system does not really matter because the member nations cannot hide their cultural background, and it will reflect in their political and legal system. Every nation has its own “cultural fingerprint”, so if one reads the regulation or the legislation carefully, they can identify the author’s cultural and ideological background by the language used. 

And as we could learn through the years, if anyone wants to force their culture on another nation, the result can be catastrophic. Influential countries use their political supremacy to force their way of thinking and their cultural standards on smaller countries, who depend on them. Most of the legal claims and investigations on member states from the EU are coming from cultural differences. If anyone has a different way of thinking or different ideology, they can easily force them to step in the line and align to their ideological and cultural standards. 

Another important thing is that various cultures have a different dynamic in their own countries. For example, in France or Germany, society could accept gay marriage easier and quicker than in Hungary. It is true that the leading political party leading has an effect on society and culture, and they can form both by their way of thinking and their ideological background. But it works the same way with culture, too, since it also has an effect on the political and legal system. If there is cultural majority, it will create political majority. 

If we take Hungary as an example, there is an ongoing investigation against the government because of its new anti-pedophilia and child protection bill

This situation can clearly show how culture and the judicial system changed in the past few years. The values protected in this Hungarian bill are attacked by the EU which was founded and built on the same Christian values. It seems now that the EU has gone through a radical cultural change, so most of the European Union member states just want to get rid of the Christian cultural background the EU had, and every value it carried.

The cultural change in the EU had a huge effect on its political and legal system. This is why the European Parliament is focusing on LGBTQ rights and consider this issue as important as the issue of human rights or criminal law. Despite the fact that the European Parliament cannot oblige the member states to accept all its statement, they try to force their way of thinking on all states having different opinion. And this act is clearly the violation of national sovereignty.

In a cultural contrast like this, the solution is not to cut every connection there is. Hungary cannot just leave the EU to protect its cultural sovereignty. As long as they are part of the federal system, and as long as the EU’s legal system applies to them as well, the Hungarian government can only defend itself with the means as it was attacked with: by law. The Hungarian government can only protect the attacked Hungarian cultural standards as long as it has the support of the Hungarian people. And as long as the government has the voters support, it can rely on the magic world: ‘sovereignty’.


Bátor Tietze, researcher at Danube Institute

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