Custom and Tradition: An Ambiguous Relationship


  • Judit Beke-Martos Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University, Legal History Research Group; Centre for International Affairs (ZfI), Faculty of Law of the Ruhr University Bochum


custom, tradition, conceptualization, definition, comparative law


The study examines the meanings of the notions of custom and tradition in the context of the defining sources of legal literature, especially in the field of comparative law, by presenting sources through which these concepts are defined in different ways, and with different meanings. The author demonstrates the lack of consensus in defining these notions and identifies the conceptual elements common to them both, such as that they refer to the manifestation or perpetuation of legal information. The role of common and coherent identities of members of the social environment in which custom and tradition in the legal sense spread is also highlighted. The author demonstrates that the specific difference between the two notions, given by the passage of time, a requirement of the formation of tradition but to which a custom already formed appears as factual information is not sufficient for their precise delimitation. The role of legal culture and the possibility of transplanting legal traditions are also briefly examined.