Politics, Law & Government

The world today is divided territorially into more than 190 countries, each of which possesses a national government that claims to exercise sovereignty and seeks to compel obedience to its will by its citizens. Governments can be classified in any number of ways. For example, they might be classified by the number of rulers, thus distinguishing government by one (as in a monarchy or a tyranny) from government by the few (in an aristocracy or oligarchy) and from government by the many (as in a democracy). Governments can also be classified by mode of succession; for example, ascension to governmental leadership may follow the rules of hereditary succession, or it may be determined through elections or by force. Governments also vary in terms of the laws and rules of conduct that each political entity follows.

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Featured Politics, Law & Government Articles
  • Sidney and Beatrice Webb
    Industrial relations
    Industrial relations, the behaviour of workers in organizations in which they earn their living. Scholars of industrial relations attempt to explain variations in the conditions of work, the degree and nature of worker participation in decision making, the role of labour unions and other forms of…
  • Hugo Grotius, detail of a portrait by Michiel Janszoon van Mierevelt; in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
    Property law
    Property law, principles, policies, and rules by which disputes over property are to be resolved and by which property transactions may be structured. What distinguishes property law from other kinds of law is that property law deals with the relationships between and among members of a society…
  • Police officer collecting fingerprints.
    Crime
    Crime, the intentional commission of an act usually deemed socially harmful or dangerous and specifically defined, prohibited, and punishable under criminal law. Most countries have enacted a criminal code in which all of the criminal law can be found, though English law—the source of many other…
  • A League of Nations conference in about 1930.
    International trade
    International trade, economic transactions that are made between countries. Among the items commonly traded are consumer goods, such as television sets and clothing; capital goods, such as machinery; and raw materials and food. Other transactions involve services, such as travel services and…
  • Obama, Barack
    Barack Obama
    Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States (2009–17) and the first African American to hold the office. Before winning the presidency, Obama represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate (2005–08). He was the third African American to be elected to that body since the end of Reconstruction (1877).…
  • Tupolev Tu-22M, a Russian variable-wing supersonic jet bomber first flown in 1969. It was designed for potential use in war against the NATO countries, where it was known by the designation “Backfire.”
    Military aircraft
    Military aircraft, any type of aircraft that has been adapted for military use. Aircraft have been a fundamental part of military power since the mid-20th century. Generally speaking, all military aircraft fall into one of the following categories: fighters, which secure control of essential…
  • Ramses II
    Diplomacy
    Diplomacy, the established method of influencing the decisions and behaviour of foreign governments and peoples through dialogue, negotiation, and other measures short of war or violence. Modern diplomatic practices are a product of the post-Renaissance European state system. Historically,…
  • Underground mall at the main railway station in Leipzig, Ger.
    Marketing
    Marketing, the sum of activities involved in directing the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers. Marketing’s principal function is to promote and facilitate exchange. Through marketing, individuals and groups obtain what they need and want by exchanging products and services with…
  • League of Nations
    Political system
    Political system, the set of formal legal institutions that constitute a “government” or a “state.” This is the definition adopted by many studies of the legal or constitutional arrangements of advanced political orders. More broadly defined, however, the term comprehends actual as well as…
  • Officers of the French National Police patrolling a housing project.
    Police
    Police, body of officers representing the civil authority of government. Police typically are responsible for maintaining public order and safety, enforcing the law, and preventing, detecting, and investigating criminal activities. These functions are known as policing. Police are often also…
  • slavery
    Slavery
    Slavery, condition in which one human being was owned by another. A slave was considered by law as property, or chattel, and was deprived of most of the rights ordinarily held by free persons. There is no consensus on what a slave was or on how the institution of slavery should be defined.…
  • Sumerian phalanx
    Tactics
    Tactics, in warfare, the art and science of fighting battles on land, on sea, and in the air. It is concerned with the approach to combat; the disposition of troops and other personalities; the use made of various arms, ships, or aircraft; and the execution of movements for attack or defense. This…
  • Diorite stela inscribed with the Code of Hammurabi, 18th century bce.
    Political philosophy
    Political philosophy, branch of philosophy that is concerned, at the most abstract level, with the concepts and arguments involved in political opinion. The meaning of the term political is itself one of the major problems of political philosophy. Broadly, however, one may characterize as political…
  • Standard Oil Strike
    Organized labour
    Organized labour, association and activities of workers in a trade or industry for the purpose of obtaining or assuring improvements in working conditions through their collective action. British trade unionism has a long and continuous history. Medieval guilds, which regulated craft production,…
  • Justinian I
    Procedural law
    Procedural law, the law governing the machinery of the courts and the methods by which both the state and the individual (the latter including groups, whether incorporated or not) enforce their rights in the several courts. Procedural law prescribes the means of enforcing rights or providing…
  • economics
    Economics
    Economics, social science that seeks to analyze and describe the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth. In the 19th century economics was the hobby of gentlemen of leisure and the vocation of a few academics; economists wrote about economic policy but were rarely consulted by…
  • voting in the 2012 U.S. presidential election
    Democracy
    Democracy, literally, rule by the people. The term is derived from the Greek dēmokratiā, which was coined from dēmos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”) in the middle of the 5th century bce to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens. The etymological origins…
  • Mussolini, Benito
    Fascism
    Fascism, political ideology and mass movement that dominated many parts of central, southern, and eastern Europe between 1919 and 1945 and that also had adherents in western Europe, the United States, South Africa, Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East. Europe’s first fascist leader, Benito…
  • International payment and exchange
    International payment and exchange, respectively, any payment made by one country to another and the market in which national currencies are bought and sold by those who require them for such payments. Countries may make payments in settlement of a trade debt, for capital investment, or for other…
  • Flooding of a residential neighbourhood in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, August 2005.
    Insurance
    Insurance, a system under which the insurer, for a consideration usually agreed upon in advance, promises to reimburse the insured or to render services to the insured in the event that certain accidental occurrences result in losses during a given period. It thus is a method of coping with risk.…
  • Constitutional law
    Constitutional law, the body of rules, doctrines, and practices that govern the operation of political communities. In modern times the most important political community has been the state. Modern constitutional law is the offspring of nationalism as well as of the idea that the state must protect…
  • kibbutz
    Inheritance
    Inheritance, the devolution of property on an heir or heirs upon the death of the owner. The term inheritance also designates the property itself. In modern society, the process is regulated in minute detail by law. In the civil law of the continental European pattern, the pertinent branch is…
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