What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to ensure that members of society behave with justice, good faith, and benevolence. It can be established by legislatures through statutes, executive decrees and regulations, or through judicial decisions in “civil law” jurisdictions (where a judge or barrister’s decisions are legally binding on subsequent judges). The law is also informed by morality, which derives its force from the laws of nature and man’s natural constitution.

While the goal of law is to maintain order in a civilised society, conflict still arises and the role of law is to help settle them. For example, if two people claim the same piece of property the law can resolve the dispute without fighting. Laws may also prevent crimes and protect the interests of the environment, consumers and workers.

Law is an area of intense scholarly study, providing a rich source of research for philosophers, sociologists and economists. It raises complex issues of fairness, equality and justice. For example, the law can be used to discriminate against particular groups or can result in unfair treatment of an individual. In some cases, past decisions can continue to shape future rulings until societal change prompts a court to overturn the precedent. In addition to its practical application, the law also provides an important source of inspiration for philosophical and literary pursuits such as ethics, morality, and political philosophy. These pursuits can lead to the development of new laws, and their interpretation, or the study of existing ones, to uncover their hidden meanings.