What Is Law?

Law is the system of rules governing the behavior and rights of individuals or groups within a society. It is enforced by a state, with the aim of guaranteeing a peaceful existence and punishing those who transgress the rules. A precise definition of law is controversial, with many books and debates offering various ideas on the subject.

The concept of law is an integral part of any societal structure, and is closely linked to the nature of political power. Laws shape politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways, and are often regarded as the foundation for social justice.

In modern times, laws are usually formulated by the legislature through statutes; by the executive, such as decrees and regulations; or by judges, resulting in legal precedent. Lawyers and other legal professionals are a vital part of any country’s judicial system.

A variety of fields are covered by law, ranging from criminal and civil law to family, labour, maritime, commercial and biolaw. It also covers areas such as the responsibilities of employers and employees, how to run a company and the complexities of tax law.

The underlying theory of law is the idea that there are certain fundamental principles that govern the human relationship. These principles are based on the concept that any person or group is bound by certain fundamental rights, which are universal and unchanging. Legal philosophy has evolved over the centuries to incorporate a range of different ideas and theories on this subject.

Many of these ideas are rooted in religion. The Jewish halakha and the Islamic Shari’a are based on religious precepts, while Christian canon law continues to be interpreted using qiyas (reasoning by analogy) and ijma (consensus). The laws of nature have also been a source of inspiration for some philosophers, with Jeremy Bentham advocating utilitarian theories that law is essentially a set of commands backed by the threat of sanctions from a sovereign authority, which people innately obey.

The practice of law is highly regulated by both the government and independent regulating bodies, with lawyers having to undergo specified training and achieve a degree before being allowed to practise. However, the precise nature of what is considered law varies from place to place, and a lot of controversy surrounds this.