This book is written for students who are studying law on courses ranging from A-level through to a wide range of undergraduate degree courses, including law degree courses and courses in business studies and social science. Students studying for law degrees, in particular, will find material which introduces them to most of the foundation subjects, as well as familiarising them with legal method, legal concepts, the English legal system and some of the theories, analyses and critical perspectives through which we may better understand law and the workings of the legal system.
Apart from students enrolled on academic courses, this book will be of interest to anyone who is fascinated by law and the legal system. We live in a society in which everyday life is touched by legal regulation of one kind or another, more than at any other period in our history. Legal rules are themselves the result of intricate historical processes, socio-economic forces, and contemporary policies; those processes, forces and policies are often controversial, and are themselves interesting and rewarding areas of study, helping us understand why the law takes the form that it does.
For if we are to have law at all (and every known social group has had codes approximating to what we would recognise as law), then it must be responsive to the needs of society, and of the multiple communities who make up that society. If the law, or any part of the legal system, fails to respond to those needs, then it clearly becomes open to criticism. I see neither use nor virtue in presenting or studying law as if it were merely a package of rules, independent of and somehow unconnected with society; or in a way which suggests that there is nothing wrong with it. And if criticisms of the law lead to criticisms of the society whose law it is, then so be it. If the critical comments in this book stimulate further thought and discussion, then one objective, at least, will have been achieved. This, indeed, is one of the approaches taken in this book, the other being that the law cannot properly be understood, and certainly ought not to be studied, in a way which fails to take account of the social, economic and political contexts from which the law emerges and in which it operates.