Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2012

Publication Citation

19 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 423 (2012)


It has become commonplace to assert that rights consciousness is expanding globally and that individuals worldwide are demonstrating an increasing awareness of and insistence upon their legal entitlements. To marshal empirical support for such claims is, however, exceedingly complex. One important line of socio-legal research on rights consciousness adopts what might be called a "vertical" perspective, tracing the flow of legal forms and practices from prestigious and authoritative centers of cultural production to local settings, where they may be adopted, resisted, or transformed. Vertical perspectives on global rights consciousness have broadened and enriched the field of law and society by examining linkages between local communities and world capitals, individuals and international organizations, and everyday interactions and systems of global regulation and enforcement. Yet, vertical perspectives in themselves cannot determine whether rights consciousness has expanded in relation to other systems of norm enforcement and dispute resolution. To answer this question, vertical perspectives must be combined with horizontal perspectives to ascertain what norms, practices, and beliefs prevail within various social fields where ordinary people engage in everyday interactions. A combination of vertical and horizontal perspectives is illustrated by research on rights consciousness in northern Thailand, which suggests the counterintuitive conclusion that rights consciousness may have diminished and that ordinary people rely instead on new forms of religiosity to justify inaction even in the face of serious legal harms.