What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created by the state that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. If those rules are broken or breached sanctions can be imposed. Law is more than simply a set of rules, however. It also serves as a tool of social control and can satisfy a variety of social wants and needs. Various definitions of law exist, and each has its own merits.

A common view of law is that it consists of rules made by the state and enforced by government agencies. It includes rules that prohibit certain activities, such as stealing, and laws that punish those who violate them, such as jail time. This view of law is often called legal positivism.

Some critics of this understanding of law argue that it is too limited and that law can also encompass a moral stance. For example, the prohibition against insider trading might be seen as a way to protect investors from being defrauded, which is a moral consideration. Similarly, the principle of due process, which entails fundamental fairness and decency in government actions, is also considered to be a legal concept.

Others believe that laws are not only an instrument of social control but also serve other purposes, such as promoting social justice, keeping the peace and maintaining the status quo, protecting minorities against majorities, and providing for orderly social change. These broader goals of law are sometimes known as natural law.

Depending on how these deeper dimensions of law are understood, different theories about the nature of law emerge. One such theory is Hans Kelsen’s pure theory of law, which views law as a normative science. This theory argues that law is a product of human culture and that it should always reflect the customary consciousness of a people.

In addition to the theoretical models of law, there are many other concepts that are associated with it, such as judicial independence; rule by precedent; separation of powers; and transparency of lawmaking and enforcement. Articles about these issues are located under a variety of headings, including criminal law; civil law; legal education; and legal philosophy.

The law has an important role to play in all aspects of society. It is used to govern a society, regulate business, protect citizens and property, and ensure a free and democratic press. It is not a simple task, however, to create and maintain a system of laws that are understandable and widely accepted. This requires a clear and publicized body of law that is stable, equally applied to all groups regardless of social class, and that guarantees core human rights as well as property, contract, and procedural rights. In addition, a fair and impartial judiciary is needed to oversee these processes.