Law is a body of rules that governs the behavior of people and their interactions with each other. It varies by culture, with some societies having no formal laws while others have strict legal codes that are enforced by the police and other government officials. The law shapes politics, economics and history in many ways. A distinction can be made between civil law systems, where a central body codifies and consolidates laws, and common law systems, in which judge-made precedents are used to determine case-by-case interpretations of the law.
Laws protect the individual rights of citizens, bind government and public officials to their duties, and serve as the foundation for social stability and order. They also serve as mediators for relations between people. Even in the best of times, however, people disagree, and conflicts arise. Laws offer a way to settle such disputes without resorting to violence, by allowing the courts to decide who is right and impose justice.
The field of law is enormously diverse, covering virtually every aspect of human activity. For example, space law addresses activities of countries in outer space while labour law deals with the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade unions. The law of contracts regulates agreements to exchange goods and services, while property law establishes people’s rights and obligations toward tangible and intangible assets such as land, houses and cars.
A number of other law disciplines deal with the administration of government, including constitutional law; administrative law; and criminal procedure. In addition, there is the law of the land and other property, the law of taxation, the law of the sea, the law of the air, telecommunications law and medical jurisprudence.
Those who study the law generally have a background in a related subject. Those who wish to become lawyers must undergo rigorous training in a university or equivalent institution.
Articles on law typically provide a detailed overview of a particular issue or a critique of recent legislative changes. They may also discuss the ethical implications of specific decisions by judges or other governmental bodies.
There are some articles that treat law in a philosophical sense, for example, those dealing with the ontology of the concept. Other articles examine the relationship of law to political structures, including constitution; ideology; political party; and political system. Still other articles explore law’s role in a variety of social issues, such as censorship; crime and punishment; and war and the military. Finally, there are articles that describe law in a particular historical or cultural context. For example, there are articles that discuss Islamic law; Jewish law; and the Talmud and Midrash. These articles are useful for understanding different legal traditions. In some cases, they may offer a comparison between law in various countries. In other instances, they may focus on the history of a single country’s legal tradition. In either instance, these articles are essential reading for anyone interested in law.