The Importance of Understanding Law


The study of law, whether a specialized field like canon law or a broad topic like criminal justice, is an essential aspect of a well-functioning society. It is an area that touches on issues of politics, economics, history and society in ways that are important for all to understand.

The word “law” is defined as a system of rules or codes imposed by authority which governs the behavior of members of a community, or the behaviour of individuals within a particular society. It is also considered a way of imposing order and defining reward and punishment. Law can be created by legislation, resulting in statutes; by the executive branch, through decrees and regulations; or through case law decisions made by judges, which is known as common law jurisdiction.

While it may seem that the law is an immutable aspect of human life, it has been the subject of debate throughout history. For example, Roscoe Pound proposed that law is a form of social control and that its purpose is to satisfy the needs of society, whilst Friedrich Karl von Savigny believed that it is a matter of custom and that the law must conform to popular consciousness.

A broad definition of the law includes a range of fields such as constitutional law; labour law, which deals with the tripartite relationship between employer, trade union and employee; family law, which governs relationships among family members; and criminal law, which deals with offences against society. The law can also apply to private individuals, such as tort law, which covers damage to property or reputation, or libel and slander laws, which deal with public defamation of characters.

In recent years, the legal profession has seen changes to its role and its impact on society that would have been unimaginable to writers of earlier centuries. The emergence of new technologies, the globalization of markets and the rise of civil societies have challenged traditional notions of the role of the law and how it is constructed and enforced.

Whether you’re looking for an overview of the law, a specific topic or a full-blown book on the subject, Oxford Reference has it covered. With thousands of concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries, we can help you to find the information you need quickly and efficiently.

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