Law: A Very Short Introduction (2nd edition)

ISBN : 9780198745624

Raymond Wacks
184 Pages
114 x 174 mm
Pub date
Sep 2015
Very Short Introductions


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Law touches every aspect of our daily lives, and yet the main concepts, terms, and processes of the legal system remain obscure to many. This ...

New to this Edition:

  • Provides a general account of legal systems around the world from the earliest beginnings to the present - and the future
  • Examines the future of the law in the face of a number of contemporary challenges including the threat of terrorism, surveillance, and the impact of the Internet
  • Looks beyond domestic law to examine how international law is used to settle disputes between states, punish malevolent dictators, and create a better world
  • Discusses the contentious relationships between law and society and law and morality
  • Takes into account developments in Law since the first edition, and offers updated discussions of topical subjects such as international humanitarian law
  • Includes jargon-free explanations of legal terms and concepts, court procedures and judgements
  • Explains the workings of the legal system, and how it unifies a vast framework as widespread as the punishment of crime, the enforcement of contracts, and the protection of personal freedoms

Law is at the heart of every society, protecting rights, imposing duties, and establishing a framework for the conduct of almost all social, political, and economic activity. Despite this, the law often seems a highly technical, perplexing mystery, with its antiquated and often impenetrable jargon, obsolete procedures, and endless stream of complex statutes and legislation.

In this Very Short Introduction Raymond Wacks introduces the major branches of the law, describing what lawyers do, and how courts operate, and considers the philosophy of law and its pursuit of justice, freedom, and equality. In this second edition, Wacks locates the discipline in our contemporary world, considering the pressures of globalization and digitalisation and the nature of the law in our culture of threatened security and surveillance. 


1: Law's roots
2: Law's branches
3: Law and morality
4: Courts
5: Lawyers
6: The future of law
Further reading

About the author: 

Raymond Wacks, Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Theory, University of Hong Kong
Raymond Wacks is Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Theory at the University of Hong Kong. He is a prolific and influential writer on legal theory and human rights, in particular the protection of privacy, on which he is a leading international authority. Previous books include Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory (OUP, 2012), Philosophy of Law: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2006), and Privacy: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2015), which is now in its second edition.

Questions for Thought and Discussion

  • What are the distinctive features of law in the West?
  • What are the main distinctions between civil and common law?
  • What are the main functions of law?
  • What are the principal sources of law?
  • Distinguish between public and private law
  • Why is Donoghue v Stevenson such an important case?
  • What are the main differences between contract and tort?
  • What is constitutional law?
  • Must law be moral?
  • What arguments are generally raised against abortion? Are they persuasive?
  • Should assisted suicide be a criminal offence?
  • Is torture justified to prevent terrorism?
  • How does the law protect human rights?
  • What is natural law?
  • Define a court. How might courts change in the future?
  • Should the jury be abolished for criminal trials?
  • What is the rule of law?
  • Can the law reduce poverty?

Other Books by Raymond Wacks

  • Philosophy of Law: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Privacy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 2015)
  • Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory 4th edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
  • Privacy (2 vols) The International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory (London: Dartmouth; New York: New York University Press, 1993) Vol I: The Concept of Privacy. Vol II: Privacy and the Law.
  • Law, Morality, and the Private Domain (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2000)
  • Privacy and Media Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)


Further Reading

  • John N. Adams and Roger Brownsword Understanding Law, 4th edition (Sweet and Maxwell, 2006)
  • Andrew Clapham, Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2007)
  • H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law, ed. P. A. Bulloch and J. Raz, 3rd edn, with an introduction by L. Green (Clarendon Press, 2012)
  • James A. Holland and Julian S. Webb,Learning Legal Rules: A Student’s Guide to Legal Method and Reasoning, 8th edition (Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Elizabeth Martin and Jonathan Law (eds), Dictionary of Law, 7th edn (Oxford Quick Reference, Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Raymond Wacks, Philosophy of Law: A Very Short Introduction 2nd edn (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory 4th edn (Oxford University Press, 2015)

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