Law is the set of rules that are enforceable through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior and ensure that people adhere to a community’s ideals. It encompasses a broad spectrum of areas including property, business, family, criminal and international relations.
Laws may be created by a collective legislature, resulting in statutes or by the executive through decrees and regulations or through judges by establishing case law (common law jurisdictions). Individuals can also create legally binding contracts with others that are enforceable by the courts. The term is also used to refer to the professions that advise people on legal issues, represent them in court or give decisions and punishments – for example lawyers, judges, police officers, etc.
The precise definition of law is a matter of debate. Some argue that it encompasses any set of rules that govern a particular area, whether written or unwritten. Others say it should include a system of punishments for breaking them. A third group sees it as the moral and ethical basis of society, while a fourth defines it more narrowly as the rules that a government enforces to protect its citizens.
One school of thought is the natural law theory. This is an attempt to link law to a person’s intrinsic values and principles of right and wrong, fairness and justice. There is no way of empirically verifying this theory, however, because there are laws that are not natural and can therefore not be proved as such by science.
An alternative view of law is the pragmatic school, which is based on the concept of the rule of reason. This is the philosophy of jurisprudence developed by John Austin. It is a form of analytical positivism which focuses on the logical and objective aspects of the law rather than its social, moral or idealistic content.
Another school of thought is the sociological law theory, which arose from the work of Franz Lévy-Bergedorff and Alfred A. Schütz. It views law as an instrument of social progress.
Finally, the neo-realist law school is an important contribution to modern thinking about the nature of laws and legal systems. This school of jurisprudence, which began in the mid-19th century, is a reaction against the theological and moralizing orientation of the sociological school. This theory aims to analyze the actual working of law and to make its functions more objective. It has been criticized for failing to take into account the practicality of laws and the way in which they are applied. It has also been criticized for neglecting to examine the effects of laws on society. This criticism, in turn, has contributed to a number of improvements in law-making techniques. For example, the use of a law-making committee to review legislation and provide feedback has helped to improve the quality of law. This has also made the legislative process more efficient. It is hoped that the development of the internet will further facilitate this improvement.