Legal System

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Legal System


the structure of any functioning body of law, which reflects the inner unity and coherence of the juridical norms composing the body of law and which expresses the division of the norms into components as objectively necessitated by the particular features of the social relations subject to such norms.

A society’s legal system is ultimately determined by its economic structure. Thus, owing to the economic base common to slave society, feudal society, and bourgeois society—the domination of private property—law in all such states was divided into public law and private law. In this system private law includes the norms that protect the private interests of individual property owners; public law includes the norms that regulate the structure of the state apparatus and its relations with citizens, that is, the norms that thereby protect the interests of the class of property owners as a whole (see alsoLAW PUBLIC LAW, and PRIVATE LAW).

The unity of socialist law stems from the dominance of social ownership and the socialist economic system, and from the united will of the working class and all working people in the USSR, as expressed in the law.

Because the social relations subject to the law are so diverse, each country’s legal system is subdivided into branches of the law and “legal institutes.” A branch of the law is a body of legal norms that regulate social relations in a particular sphere of social life. As a rule, in order for a separate branch of law to be established, the social relations it regulates must constitute a single interrelated complex, a complex qualitatively distinct from other groups of social relations and requiring separate legal regulation. Such branches of socialist law are state law, administrative law, financial law, civil law, labor law, criminal law, and criminal procedure.

A “legal institute” consists of a group of legal norms that regulate some homogeneous and interconnected set of social relations. For example, labor law has such distinct legal institutes as wages and labor time. Family law has such distinct institutes as guardianship and curatorship.


Alekseev, S. S. Struktura sovetskogoprava. Moscow, 1975.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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