The Provocative Effect of Law: Majority Nationalism and Minority Discrimination


Barak-Corren N, Feldman Y, Gidron N. The Provocative Effect of Law: Majority Nationalism and Minority Discrimination. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. 2018;15 (4) :951–986.


Western societies have experienced ethnic and religious diversification in recent decades. These demographic changes have been met by efforts to defend the local dominant culture using majority nationalism laws, intended to protect the cultural heritage of the majority. We empirically examine majority nationalism laws’ expressive effects on patterns of minority discrimination using the Israeli draft Nation Law (NL) as a case study. Drawing on two experimental surveys of a representative sample of the majority population of Israel (N = 602), our results lend weak support to the hypothesis that majority nationalism laws increase bias against minorities, and modest support to the hypothesis that such laws generate unintended spillover effects across different minority groups and from the public to the private sphere. Our main finding is that majority nationalism laws provoke a backlash reaction from those who oppose them. We define this as the provocative effect of law and discuss its relation to the expressive law theory. The results suggest that the effects of majority nationalism laws may vary systematically across ideological groups and spheres of discrimination.

Last updated on 11/06/2018