Law is a system of rules that establishes a framework for ensuring a peaceful society and provides a mechanism for resolving disputes and imposing sanctions. It covers many aspects of life, from a person’s right to privacy to the rules that govern how to drive a car. It can shape politics, economics, history and society in many ways.
The precise meaning of law is subject to debate and different theories about it are developed. Some writers believe it is a human construct, while others, such as Hans Kelsen, propose the ‘pure theory of law’ which states that law is a ‘normative science’.
In practice, laws are created and enforced in a variety of ways, with the scope and range of legal subjects immense. In the most general sense, laws can be made by groups or individual legislators resulting in statutes; by executive decrees or regulations; and through court decisions known as the “doctrine of precedent” (the idea that a judge’s decision applies to similar future cases) in common law systems. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements which adopt alternative ways of resolving disputes to standard court litigation.
Law also encompasses a variety of other fields, such as labour law which deals with the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union; property law which covers the concept of land ownership and includes mortgages and leases and rights in rem and in res; and criminal and civil procedure, the rules that courts must follow to ensure a fair trial or hearing.