Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people. A legal system may be based on civil or common law, a religious tradition, or on codifications in constitutions or statutes passed by governments.
Law defines rights and duties to property; it regulates agreements about exchange of goods or services. It also addresses issues such as personal and social safety, censorship, and crime.
In a nation, law can be designed to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice and provide for orderly social change. Some systems serve these purposes better than others, and a specific system is often determined by the country’s history, connections with other nations, and adherence to international standards.
The study of Law is a broad discipline that encompasses many sub-topics, including criminal law, tax and social security law, human rights law, international law, family law and major debates in legal theory. Oxford Reference offers more than 34,000 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries across this broad field.