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Law: A Very Short Introduction

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  391 ratings  ·  38 reviews

Law underlies our society -it protects our rights, imposes duties on each of us, and establishes a framework for the conduct of almost every social, political, and economic activity. The punishment of crime, compensation of the injured, and the enforcement of contracts are merely some of the tasks of a modern legal system. It also strives to ensure justice, promote freedom

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Published March 27th 2008 by OUP Oxford
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Bojan Tunguz
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Upon learning that I have read this book, a friend of mine (who happened to be a law student) remarked that "there is no such thing as a very short introduction to law." She was referring of course to the voluminous cases and laws that all law students are supposed to study and even memorize in many instances. This is a daunting process that requires many hours and hard work, and on a surface it would seem inconceivable that it could be condensed into a very short book that does justice to it. I ...more
Makan Tayebi
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A british lawyer that has worked abroad in Hong Kong and South Africa, has gained a rare perspective on 'how it all works'. While it's a short book, it makes every page count. As a speaker of English as a second language, I'd have to admit i had to open a dictionary from time to time to understand every single sentence, but overall I liked the sophistication, and it did not become overwhelming.

What is law, and what it is achieving, systems of law in different countries, origins of law in differe
Matthew White
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law
For what this is and the scope it's intended to cover this is honestly near-perfect in its selection of words and prose and the way it speaks to the layman. People are connected to (i) intrinsically interesting subjects and (ii) ultimately; stories - and this text knows this... reaching a balance leaning on the former with occasional slant towards the latter - as any academic lecturer will ascribe.
Manvendra  Shekhawat
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vsi
A decent introduction to law. Though i feel that you might require some prior knowledge about a few concepts of law. But it doesn’t get too complicated. This book explains the concept of morality, different types of laws & courts in a rather easy to understand manner.
Although it is a bit America centric it takes India and other European countries into account as well.
Jacob Lines
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: law
A short introduction into how law works in the world. The author has practiced law in several different systems, so he gives very understandable and helpful comparisons of different systems. He describes how law addresses crime, private wrongs, contract disputes, and other common conflicts. He also explains how the major systems developed. The legal profession and legal education have their own sections. He ends with a very good discussion of human rights and the future of law, including how law ...more
Nathan Albright
Feb 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: challenge-2019
This book sadly lives up to the last name of its author, because it was pretty whack, to use that old slang expression.  The main issue with this book is not that it is short, because inevitably a book that is very short contains oversimplification, which is something to be expected, but rather that the book is extremely biased and fails to account for a great deal of what makes law worthwhile and legitimate.  On the one hand, the author recognizes that the politicized nature of law and the rise ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For what it is, Law: A Very Short Introduction is a very good -scoping- approach to learning about law. Unfortunately, I cannot say I found Wacks' writing particularly enticing, nor was the book's content deep enough to really engage me beyond a certain point. Of course this is expected as the book's title suggests, so if you really feel like you have absolutely no knowledge of the law I say go for it - if you do, I would try another book.

It should also be mentioned that Wacks constantly repeats
May 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a very, very basic introduction to law. I read through it, somehow always expecting it to go further than what I already knew. I don't think I learned anything about the American law system—in fact, parts of the book, especially on criminal law and on race, are actively misleading. What I did learn was about other justice systems, e.g., British law and civil law systems. Differences in contract law, in the legal professions, in judicial review were all new to me; and perhaps I picked up ...more
Harrison Gorst
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very good, very sorry introduction to the law. This book also managed to include systems from around Europe and the gone which provides great context and comparison to the legal system of England and Wales.
Written in an understandable lexicon which makes it accessible to someone like me who wishes to study law yet has no prior knowledge of key terms.
Overall a very good introduction for a potential law student such as myself.
Aaron Leung
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is really an eye-opener as it offers an extensive grasp of laws. You may think the context might be quite difficult to understand as it is about law. And so did I. However, what surprised me is that Raymond did a good job in explaining different should-be-abstract concepts in the easiest way so that the readers won’t feel confused. It is probably the best book for any reader who wishes to get a brief yet precise picture of laws as a beginner.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked this up due to having absolutely no prior knowledge of law and found it a fairly difficult read. I appreciate that this is a hard topic to bring down to laymen’s terms, but I did find myself having to cross-reference fairly often. It does a good job of condensing everything and I understood most of it, but it perhaps doesn’t suit someone who has no experience of the topic at all.
Xu Chen
Apr 17, 2018 rated it liked it
The law is, of course, in a constant state of flux. As American Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo expressed: "Existing rules and principles can give us our present location, our bearings, our latitude and longitude. The inn that shelters us for the night is not the journey's end. The law, like the traveller, must be ready for the morrow. It must have a principle of growth."
Kramer Thompson
Dec 22, 2018 rated it liked it
A good overview of the legal systems across the world, particularly the West and continental Europe. This only took a few hours to read and I think I learned quite a lot. It was also fairly interesting.
Ikmal Hisham
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's worth introductory book for those who want yo learn more about law. Even after teaching law for more than 10 years, I still found out that this book is still essential and relevant book to me personally.
Özgür Takmaz
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
The rule of law is very young.
"it was only towards the end of the 19th
century that English universities taught any
law at al and large-scale university legal
education in the United States, Canada,
Australia, and New Zealand had to await the 20th century."
Arav Agarwal
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Honestly, a pretty readable introduction to a complex subject. While I certainly felt that the book could have been simplified in terms of prose, it still worked well
True Lin
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
It's real "introduction".
Timothy Wee
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great read but my head hurts
Zhi Yan Jin
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Expansive coverage of issues, but clarity and readibility have been compromised.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice breakdown and categorisation of chapters. Ties in great with my alevel spec. Very insightful and interesting.
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Indeed a very short introduction but inspiring as well, especially the part of “law and morality”.
Absolute madman with a chadley diction
Kevin Gibbons
Jul 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Weirdly a lot of what seemed to be editing/proofreading errors, but a really thought provoking final chapter left a good taste.
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This was my first book from the "A Very Short Introduction" series. While the idea of a cursory look at a topic for the layman has appeal, the implementation, at least in this case, was somewhat lacking. My objections are: the topic was too broad, lack of focus or continuity, and Wacks's inability to avoid his subjective interjections.

The book starts with the Code of Hammurabi in 1706 BC (which, incidently, centered mostly on laws concerned with price fixing and other government interferences w
Ben Craik
If you want an introduction to the law I'd start somewhere else. The book has a number of flaws, but chief among them is the quality of its prose.

What am I to make of this passage?

"A fourth generalization is that while the common law proceeds from the premise 'where there is a remedy, there is a right', the civil law tradition generally adopts the opposite position: 'where there is a right, there is a remedy'. If the common law is essentially remedial, rather than rights-based, in its outlook, t
Kathleen O'Neal
Jul 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Raymond Wacks's "Law: A Very Short Introduction" is a book that is at its best when the author is explaining the history and diversity of law as well as some of the most important arguments of a few well known legal philosophers. The first chapter in particular, in which Wacks traces a brief history of various legal systems, is the best in book. The second chapter, in which Wacks delineates a few of the major branches of law is also very worthwhile. The chapters on "Courts" and "Lawyers" are co ...more
Friendly Bookworm
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Apart from a handful of books, most of my reviews discuss and comment on non-fiction novels. I struggled to rate this book particularly because my other ratings are juxtaposed on the style of books I have previously read, and this one doesn’t fall into any of those categories.

Thus, I have graded it solely on the quality of the writing and the information that is provided to me. I picked this book up because law has always been a subject that has intrigued me, and a part of me will always contemp
May 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Law touches every aspect of our daily lives, yet to many its workings are a mystery. This Very Short Introduction uncovers the rudiments of law, explaining the concepts, terms, and processes of legal systems in a clear, jargon-free manner, and revealing how the law provides a framework for almost every social, political, and economic activity - from the settlement of international disputes to the protection of our personal freedom.

The focus is on the Western legal tradition, but Raymond Wacks al
Faisal Ali
Aug 21, 2014 rated it liked it
This is an unfinished book. Not in terms of the topics covered, but organization. Many terms were introduced too early. Some sections clearly didn't belong in the order they were placed. Repeatedly, I found myself having to summarize some parts and, in effect, reorder them.

I have the feeling the author was rushed to submit a manuscript that he was not happy with. It just feels like reading a well developed draft, not a finished book.

Nevertheless, the book is very rewarding, but not without stru
Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A good, clear concise introduction - it does what it says on the tin. UK-focussed but discussing the differences between the British and other legal systems. Having read it, however, I feel no need to reread it, so it is going to the Oxfam bookshop.
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Raymond Wacks is Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Theory at the University of Hong Kong, where he was Head of the Department of Law from 1986 to 1993. He was previously Professor of Public Law and Head of the Department of Public Law at the University of Natal in Durban. He has lived in Italy since taking early retirement in 2002.

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