Risk Perception, Culture and Legal Change: A Comparative Study on Food Safety in the Aftermath of the Mad Cow Crisis

61 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2008

See all articles by Matteo Ferrari

Matteo Ferrari

University of Trento - Department of Legal Sciences

Date Written: July 14, 2008

Abstract

Comparative law has usually paid scant attention to the study of the cultural environment in which legal reforms occur. Contrary to this traditional approach, an analysis centered on the cultural context seems to provide an important key for understanding the process of legal change and the dynamics behind the borrowing of foreign legal models. Recent theories on cultural cognition and social amplification of risk offer new tools to the comparatists to assess the role that culture can play in the processes leading to legal reforms. The idea that societies tend to react vehemently to risks which they perceive as threatening the traditional values characterizing their way of living can contribute to illustrate the reasons why some legal systems overreact when facing certain risks, while others downplay those same risks.

The reforms enacted in the aftermath of the mad cow crisis in Japan, Europe and the USA allow to explore the complex relationship existing between legal change and cultural habits. Since our perception of the risks is culturally oriented, also the legal responses we give to these risks will be (at least in part) determined by our cultural horizon. This explanation sheds some light on the reasons behind the different legal approaches that Japan, Europe and the USA had in dealing with the BSE risk.

Keywords: risk, BSE, law & culture, legal process, comparative law

Suggested Citation

Ferrari, Matteo, Risk Perception, Culture and Legal Change: A Comparative Study on Food Safety in the Aftermath of the Mad Cow Crisis (July 14, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1159763 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1159763

Matteo Ferrari (Contact Author)

University of Trento - Department of Legal Sciences ( email )

Via Verdi 26
Trento, 38100
Italy

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