Law is a system of rules that societies and governments develop in order to deal with issues such as crime, business agreements, and social relationships. Law can also be used to refer to the specific areas of legal practice that address these issues, such as criminal law or family law. The term is also commonly used to refer to the people who work within the legal system, including lawyers and judges.
From a philosophical standpoint, the concept of law is complex. It is unlike other disciplines in that it has a normative as well as descriptive or causal nature; it tells people what they ought to do and what they may not do. This distinguishes it from pure empirical sciences, such as physics (the law of gravity) or even social sciences such as economics (the law of supply and demand).
The precise definition of law is a matter of debate. Some define it as a set of standards enforced by governmental institutions to regulate human behavior, while others limit it to a code of morality. In either case, the precise definition of law is difficult to achieve, as it relies on human judgment and discretion.
As a result, the field of law is often contested. This is especially true in developing countries, where laws are being created and changed at an ever-increasing pace. The changes can be based on a variety of factors, including societal pressures, economic concerns, and changing demographics. It is important to understand how changes in laws can impact the field as a whole.
There are numerous branches of law that address the myriad issues that society faces. Contract law, for example, addresses the creation of contracts and governing the exchange of goods and services; tax law is concerned with the collection and administration of taxes; and banking law deals with financial regulation. Other areas of law include environmental, space, and employment law.
Another key issue in defining law is determining who has the power to make and enforce it. In most cases, the laws of a country are decided by the political power that is held by a particular nation-state or group of nations. Various types of rebellions are fought each year by individuals and groups who wish to see change in the current political-legal landscape.
For an in-depth look at the concept of law, Oxford Reference offers a broad collection of resources on this subject. Our legal encyclopedias cover everything from basic definitions to in-depth explorations of the major fields of law. Our articles provide concise and accurate descriptions of the main terms and concepts, as well as providing helpful charts and tables where relevant. Our expert authors combine years of knowledge in their respective areas to offer comprehensive coverage that is geared toward users at every level of academic and professional study. In addition, our articles reflect the latest developments in legislation and jurisprudence. Our articles are regularly reviewed by legal experts to ensure that they are up-to-date and complete.