The Concept of Law

Law is a set of rules created by the state which form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. These rules are enforced and if broken sanctions can be applied. For example, if someone causes an accident they can be sued for compensation and punished by the law.

However, the concept of law is more complicated than simply a collection of written rules which govern certain behaviours. The idea of law goes beyond the simple notion that there are rules that must be obeyed to include ideas such as morality, justice and power. It is also an extremely diverse field and there are many different theories of law.

Despite the wide variety of views about what law actually is, a number of definitions are commonly used. Most scholars and commentators agree that law is a system of commandments and principles issued by the government in order to control society. Roscoe Pound’s definition of law was that it is a system of social controls, which is coercive, and which serves the purposes of society. Other views on the nature of law are that it is a means for achieving power and social control, and that it is an instrument of the state’s will. The law is the result of the struggle between conflicting pulls on a society’s resources and interests, and is the product of the political culture that shapes it.

Some scholars believe that laws are only effective if they are enforced with the threat of force. This is often referred to as the rule of might. This is not a view that has widespread support amongst legal professionals, who tend to be more concerned about the quality of laws and their application rather than the use of threats to enforce them.

Other theories of law have emphasized the role of the judiciary and the need for checks and balances on power, particularly when it is exercised by the executive branch of a country’s government. Max Weber reshaped thinking on the extension of the state, and modern military, policing and bureaucratic power over ordinary citizens’ daily lives pose new challenges to accountability that earlier writers such as Locke or Montesquieu could not have foreseen. The concept of law has also been influenced by developments in the field of science and technology, which have reshaped ideas about the relationship between knowledge and power.

Law is a highly complex subject and there are a variety of articles on LibreTexts dealing with specific aspects of it. For example, see the articles on the legal profession, legal education and law and philosophy for more information. Other articles examine the relationship between the law and other concepts such as human rights, land reform and religion. They look at how the law is formulated, how it is applied and how it influences politics, economics, history and society. They also look at how the law is interpreted and what the consequences are of legal decisions. The importance of the law in different societies and cultures is also discussed.