The Oxford Dictionary of Law


Law is the body of rules that a community recognizes as binding on its members and enforces through a controlling authority. It is an important aspect of the social order of a society and is a major source of social control. It is also the subject of a wide range of academic theories and debates.

The word law is most often used to refer to the rules of a country or community that govern behavior. But it can also be used to describe the field of law itself, which encompasses a broad range of activities from research and writing on legal issues to interpreting and applying laws in courtroom trials. It includes such topics as criminal law, civil law, and employment law.

Depending on the context, the term law may be taken to mean the rules that a government creates and enforces to control its citizens or the body of laws that define a legal system, such as those of England, Germany, France, or the United States. It may also be used to describe the societal structure that is organized around laws, such as a government or a corporation.

In the sense of a set of rules that are binding on individuals, the word law can be defined as a body of commands that a group or government gives to its citizens and enforces by punishing them for breaking these rules. This is the traditional view of the law as a form of social control, first articulated by the sociologist Roscoe Pound in 1921.

A law can be a body of rules established by a legislator, resulting in statutes; by an executive agency or department, through decrees and regulations; or by the courts, based on previous decisions, which is known as case law. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, such as those governing employment and real estate transactions.

The law is an important part of the social structure that regulates human behavior and provides people with security and safety. It also provides a framework for making business, political, and personal choices. It is the foundation for economic development and is one of the fundamental reasons why people live in societies with laws.

The law is studied at all levels of education, from elementary school to a master’s degree in law. The Oxford Dictionary of Law is the leading reference for all aspects of law, providing 34,000 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries covering both international and domestic laws and their history. It also provides articles that examine the relationship of law to other social structures, such as censorship and crime and punishment. For more on the philosophy of law, see law, theory of. Oxford Reference also contains articles that cover the practice of law as a career, including Zola’s dream of becoming a lawyer. For more on the legal profession, see lawyer. Also available are articles that explore the importance of law to the economy, such as tax law and bankruptcy law.