What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. Oxford Reference provides more than 34,000 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries across this broad discipline, from criminal law, tax and social security law, and human rights law to family and employment law, and major debates in legal theory.

The primary functions of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Government agencies and programs like the Department of Labor and Social Security enact and enforce laws. Laws can be created through legislation and through judicial review or court decisions (such as caselaw). Medical law is the body of laws dealing with physician-patient privilege, confidentiality, and the sharing of personal information between a patient and their healthcare provider. Tort law involves compensation when a person or their property is damaged. Property law includes laws governing ownership of land and objects (like cars or furniture), as well as laws about the transfer of property between individuals or between entities.

Many of these laws are based on culture or religious beliefs and books, including the Torah, the Bible and the Koran. The law is also influenced by the economic needs of a country or region. For example, banks need to meet certain minimum capital requirements, and the regulation of utilities like water, gas or energy is important. In addition, Max Weber reshaped thinking about the extension of the state by arguing that law has a coercive function.

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