What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. Laws may be written or unwritten, statutory or customary, and they cover a wide range of subjects. This article focuses on the nature of legal systems and laws, with particular reference to those that govern human relationships and property.

In a broader sense, law is the system of rules created by social or governmental institutions to ensure that everyone obeys the same standards, which are enforced by enforceable sanctions. These regulations typically aim to maintain a harmonious society and protect individuals from harm. Laws exist in all societies, though the specific nature and scope of laws varies from one culture to another.

The discipline and profession of law, jurisprudence, studies these laws and the process by which they are made and applied. The study of law can also focus on the history of specific laws or on the evolution of a legal system over time. The concept of law is central to the philosophy of science and to sociology, and is a crucial part of political science.

Law has many peculiar features that distinguish it from other sciences and disciplines. Its normative character, for example, means that it comprises precepts of a’should-be’ or’must-be’ kind; unlike empirical or even social science laws, they are not subject to empirical verification (like the law of gravity). This gives a certain air of authority to authoritative statements about what constitutes law but also makes the concept problematic from a methodological viewpoint.

Almost all laws are of a complex, multi-faceted nature, and their complexity can be overwhelming. However, a few broad topics can be identified for the sake of convenience. Property law encompasses a broad spectrum of issues, including the ownership of land and property rights. These include a right in rem which grants a person ownership of a piece of land and a right in movables which grants ownership of goods such as cars, jewellery or intellectual property.

Other laws concern individual employment, involving regulations governing the relationship between employer, employee and trade union, or the rights of citizens as members of a democracy, such as a right to a fair trial. There are also laws regulating public services and utilities, such as water, energy or telecommunications, and laws concerning the validity of evidence in court cases.

In addition to these general types of laws there are laws which regulate particular activities or impose obligations on certain groups, such as environmental protection laws and taxation. Other areas of regulation include health, safety and consumer protection. Moreover, there are laws that are applicable to specific age groups or to all citizens, such as those which apply to young people and the elderly. These are known as universal laws. In some cases, these laws can be adapted to the needs of different cultural and geographical contexts by the use of interpreters.