What Is Law?


Law is the body of rules, principles and precedent that a society or organization establishes to govern its people. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. There are a number of different types of law, including criminal and civil laws, constitutional and administrative laws and international and domestic laws. Law is a topic of wide interest and is the subject of numerous studies, including legal history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis.

Law has a unique nature in that it is both a science and an art. It is scientific in the sense that there are objective principles to be observed and applied. This is contrasted with other disciplines that have a more prescriptive or descriptive approach.

The object of law is to ensure justice. This may be distributive or corrective and involves ensuring that social benefits are fairly distributed to people in a society, or that wrongs are corrected. It also aims to maintain some semblance of order in societies that are made up of people with diverse interests and values.

Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to social order and which is punishable by a court. Civil law deals with lawsuits (disputes) between individuals or organizations. Administrative law includes the rules and regulations of a government entity or public utility. Regulations in these fields may cover areas such as water, energy and communications.

Lawyers are the people whose job it is to understand and interpret the law. They are often called upon to help arrange and determine a person’s legal rights in various arrangements, such as contracts, wills or trusts. They are also involved in resolving disputes by negotiating, reconciling and compromise. They are able to help people make informed choices about their legal options and advise them on the risks of these decisions.

Law has a very complex and multifaceted nature that is the source of much debate and study. One of the main problems in discussing law is how to define it, a problem that has many layers of complexity.

A good starting point for defining law is the law as it is practiced in a given jurisdiction, and then considering the law from that perspective. For example, the laws of a given jurisdiction may include a principle known as stare decisis, which means that courts and judges must follow previous rulings on similar issues.

Another issue is whether law is something that is constructed through a process of social engineering or is innately part of a society’s value system. A third approach to the question is to consider the role of law as a tool for harmonizing conflicting groups. This is a theory that is controversial because it argues that conflicts in society are unavoidable, but that the law provides a formal means for resolving them, rather than through political debate or policy making.