Law is a system of rules that governs the social relationships and conduct of people in a society. In a law-governed society, these rules are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. The law can be established by a legislature, by executive decrees and regulations or by judges in common law jurisdictions.
There are many different branches of law, all of which have their own specific rules that regulate how people can interact with each other. These include criminal law, civil law and international law.
The study of law is a complex discipline with its own peculiarities. First, unlike in other disciplines such as empirical science and even social sciences, law is normative in nature. It describes how people are supposed to behave and what they should or should not demand from others.
These statements are not necessarily derived from empirical evidence but rather are made by decision-makers in a judicial system and are therefore deprived of any descriptive or causal character. This is an important distinction in legal scholarship because it allows researchers to make scholarly inquiries into the nature of law and its effects on society.
Other distinctive features of law are its prescriptive nature and its dependence on humans. This makes it a unique and difficult subject to investigate, especially against the backdrop of other disciplines.
It is also a highly interdisciplinary field, and has many overlaps with the social sciences, economic analysis and philosophy. This makes it possible to investigate the relations between law and other areas of study, such as political economy and sociology.
A legal system is the body of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. The law can be based on a written or tacit constitution, or a set of customs and rules that are passed down through the history of the society.
Examples of laws are statutes, codes and articles. Articles are rules that are set out in a legal document and can regulate parties’ duties, expectations, measure of damages and how to resolve disputes.
Codes are collections of laws that are published in books and are enforceable by courts. These can be influenced by the state’s constitution or its citizens’ rights encoded in it, but can also be shaped through the actions of the legislative bodies and judges.
They can also be influenced by a country’s culture, which may lead to the development of different traditions in laws. These can range from ancient Greek or Roman legal maxims to modern customary law and national constitutions.
The law can be a major source of scholarly inquiry, because it raises issues of equality and fairness in society. This is particularly true in the area of human rights, which can affect all aspects of daily life.
This edition includes a wide range of concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries covering the major terms and concepts across this broad discipline–from criminal law, tax and social security law and human rights law to international law, family and employment law, and major debates in legal theory. The entries are written by trusted experts for researchers at every level, and are complemented by charts and chronologies wherever useful.