What is Law?


Law is a system of rules that are enforced by a society or government to regulate the conduct of individuals and groups. Its precise definition is subject to debate, but it encompasses the idea of a legal code that is binding upon individuals and that may be used as a means of social control. The law aims to achieve certain goals, including maintaining order and protecting rights and liberties, while serving as a mediator between different social interests. It can be created by a constitution, written or tacit, and by legislation. It can also be influenced by moral and ethical values, economic needs and history.

The nature of the law reflects the values and purposes of the society that creates it. For example, a tyrant might create laws to serve their own purposes, including controlling the population and maintaining a stable status quo. Conversely, a democratically-elected government might make laws to promote the welfare of its citizens. A law might be created to protect the environment, or to promote fair trade between nations. A government might make laws to prohibit drug trafficking, or to ensure the safety of its citizens in a way that is consistent with international treaties and agreements.

In general, the law is described as a body of rules that imposes obligations and prohibitions on citizens and that can be enforced through a judicial system. In the modern sense of the word, the law includes criminal, civil, and administrative justice. Criminal law concerns prosecuting people for breaking the law, civil law relates to settling disputes between parties, and administrative justice involves interpreting and enforcing laws made by the government.

The law can be formulated by a legislature, resulting in statutes; by the executive branch of a country, resulting in regulations and decrees; or through the courts, leading to common law. Judges who are familiar with the law and precedents develop and interpret it. This process is known as case law. Judges carefully read and analyze reports of past cases to determine which judgments might be applicable to present situations. This careful reading is called legal case analysis.

The origins of the law are often complex, with many factors contributing to its development over time. These include social needs, political and moral ideas, the prevailing theories of human behaviour, intuitions of public policy (avowed or unconscious), and personal prejudices. It is impossible to discuss the law without acknowledging these deeper dimensions. For this reason, the study of law is a rich and rewarding field.