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How Law Works: the machinery and impact of civil justice

Ross Cranston
Oxford University Press (January 2006)

How Law Works examines three fundamental values of the law, access to justice, equality before the law and the rule of law. It emphasises the importance of procedure- often overlooked in favour of the substantive law- in achieving these values. And throughout it argues that understanding how law works and how it could be made to work better demands both a knowledge of law and of its content.

The book is a collection of essays exploring aspects of the machinery of the civil justice system and its impact on society. It complements Ross Cranston's previous book, Law, Government and Public Policy, which looked mainly at the formation and operation of legislation. By contrast, this volume concentrates on the courts and other dispute resolution mechanisms, examining the impact of law by looking at both case law and legislation. 

The opening chapter offers a framework for the book which is neither high theory nor simple description. The first part of the book then deals with various dimensions of the civil justice system: access to justice, what courts do, the procedural machinery and lawyers' conduct. 

In the following part of the book, various dimensions of the impact of law are addressed through studies of civil and social rights in practice, the role of European law in the destruction of Aboriginal society in Australia; and commercial law in south and south-east Asia. The analysis raises issues such as the gap between the aspiration of law and the reality; that in some situations law can be destructive of social patterns; the relationship between law and economic development; and whether law can be transplanted from one society to another. 


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