The Basics of Law


Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. The precise definition of law is a matter of debate but most generally it refers to the set of rules created by societies and enforced by their governments to regulate behaviour. Law has deep implications for the fields of philosophy, anthropology, economics, sociology and history and is one of the most important sources of scholarly inquiry.

The core subjects of law are contracts; property, including land and intangibles like shares in a company; criminal, including the punishment of people who commit crimes such as murder, theft or fraud; civil, including disputes between individuals; and administrative, including the regulation of industries such as water, oil, energy and banking. In addition, the study of law includes a wide variety of subfields, such as labour law (including tripartite industrial relations between employer, employee and trade union), family law and international law.

There is a strong relationship between law and government, which is seen in the structure of nations (as they are called in law) and in the aspirations of people for democratic rule or greater legal rights. As a result, revolutions are a recurring feature of the political landscape and legal theory is often in close contact with politics and history.

Some branches of law are highly technical, such as evidence law (which involves the rules that govern which materials may be presented in court) and civil procedure (the way courts deal with lawsuits). Others are more general: constitutional law examines the limits of what can legally be done, corporate law is concerned with business organisations and how they operate, public interest litigation focuses on cases where the public may benefit from an action, and impeachment is a constitutional process to call into question high office-holders in the House of Representatives for trial in the Senate.