What is Law?


Law is the system of rules a society develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It provides the context for much of human activity and raises complex issues of equality, fairness and justice. It also serves as a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology.

Generally speaking, laws are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. They can be made by a legislative body, resulting in statutes; or made by executive decrees or regulations; or established through judicial decision-making (in common law jurisdictions) that establishes precedent. Private individuals may also create legally binding contracts, as well as enforceable property rights that are recognized and enforced by the courts.

Although laws serve many purposes, they are generally thought to be rooted in four basic principles: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. The precise definition of the law is a matter of ongoing debate and many scholars have contributed to its evolution.

The law is a dynamic and ever-changing force in our lives. Each year there are revolts against existing political-legal authority; and the aspiration of democracy, or greater “rights” for citizens, is a recurrent theme in politics. In addition, differences in the way that the law is experienced by rich and poor people are as pronounced as the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound. This dynamic and complexity makes understanding the law a challenging yet worthwhile endeavour.

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