What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. It is a complex concept, which has been the subject of longstanding debate. Law has a normative, prescriptive character, which sets out how people ought to behave or be treated, and can be enforced by a controlling authority through penalties. Law can be made by a collective legislature or a single legislator, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals may create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that adopt alternative forms of dispute resolution to normal court litigation.

Different legal systems and individual scholars have many different ideas about what Law is, with some attempting to define it as a set of principles or a code of morality. However, a number of features are commonly agreed upon, including:

The legal system in a country is important because it provides the framework to ensure that society is peaceful and that people’s rights are respected. Some countries have legal systems that fulfil these purposes better than others. For example, an authoritarian government can keep the peace and maintain a status quo, but it can also oppress minorities or political opponents.

There are also many different branches of Law, with some focusing on specific areas of human activity. For example, labour law deals with the tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade union, involving industrial relations and workplace rights such as health and safety or the right to strike. Other areas include administrative law, which governs how a government operates; contract law, which regulates agreements between parties; criminal law, which concerns the punishment of criminals; property law, which deals with ownership and title; and evidence law, which defines what can be admitted in court cases.