What is Law?


Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is a complex subject that shapes politics, economics and history. It is also a source of much scholarly inquiry in areas such as legal history, philosophy and social analysis.

A law may be written or oral and may cover many subjects, such as: business agreements, labour relations, property ownership, contracts and the like. The law is the foundation of a society and can be seen in a wide variety of ways, from obscene phone calls to the way a government deals with political prisoners or a criminal trial. It can be divided into several types:

Some laws are based on common sense, such as the law against murder. Then there are laws that are based on empirical data, such as the law of gravity. Other laws are based on philosophical assumptions, such as the law of karma or the law of attraction. Still others are based on faith, such as the law of chastity or the law of forgiveness.

Many laws are created and enforced by a central authority, such as a country’s legislature or executive branch. The law may be made by a collective legislature, resulting in statutes, or it can be established by judges through case law and precedent (in civil law jurisdictions). It is possible for individual citizens to create their own legally binding contracts, such as a will.

The legal system varies from place to place, with most countries having a mixture of civil, common and criminal law. Civil law relates to resolving lawsuits between individuals or companies. Criminal law involves punishing those who commit crimes against the state. It is also common for religious groups to have their own codes of conduct, such as the law of Islam.

Each type of law has its own subtopics. For example, contract law deals with the rights and obligations of parties to a business agreement. Labor law is about the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union and includes regulations such as minimum wage or workplace safety. Evidence law is about what materials are admissible in court and how they should be presented. Arraignment is the process in which an accused person is brought to court and told of the charges against him or her.

The practice of law is a fascinating study. It is an area that raises interesting questions about the role of power and how it should be exercised in a democracy. The modern military, policing and bureaucracy that control citizens’ daily lives pose unique challenges that Max Weber and other thinkers could not have foreseen. This makes law a subject that is always worth studying.