What Is Law?


Law is a system of social or governmental rules that governs human behaviour. Its precise definition is a matter of ongoing debate, but all legal systems share certain characteristics. Laws are generally enforced by a government or other authoritative body, such as a court, that has the power to punish people who break them. They may be enacted by a legislative body, creating statutes; or enacted by the executive, through decrees and regulations; or established through judges, in common law jurisdictions, through case law.

Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways, and provides a mediator of relations between people. Depending on the approach taken, it may be viewed as a body of written or unwritten rules, as an expression of a culture’s values, or even as a manifestation of divine guidance. It is a powerful tool that can shape people’s lives, and it has also been used as an instrument of oppression by dictators and totalitarian regimes.

Some scholars argue that, at its core, law is simply a form of coercion. The sovereign issues commands backed by threat of punishment, and, in order to survive, humans learn to obey them. This view of law is often associated with a philosophy called utilitarianism, popularized by John Austin.

Other scholars, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, argue that the law is a social construct based on principles of justice and fairness. This view of law is sometimes associated with a philosophy called natural law. These theories are both influential, and they often overlap with one another.

The law is an integral part of a democratic society, and it is necessary for the stability and prosperity of most nations. However, it is a difficult and dangerous concept to implement in practice, and it is often violated or undermined by those seeking power or glory through force or corruption. In addition, the nature of the law varies greatly from nation to nation.

In general, law consists of three main categories: criminal, administrative and civil. Criminal law encompasses the study of crimes such as murder, robbery and fraud; civil law covers contracts, torts and negligence, among other topics; and administrative law focuses on government regulations and procedures. In the United States, there are also special laws that apply to certain industries such as bankruptcy and copyright. In addition, there are specialised laws that deal with specific aspects of human behaviour, such as labour law (which regulates the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union), family law, property law and evidence law (which determines what materials can be admitted in court cases). The study of the law can lead to many careers, including that of a lawyer. This article was originally published by JobKeeper, and is reprinted here with permission. JobKeeper is a leading provider of automated HR software and services for small businesses. For more information on how JobKeeper can help your business streamline employee management, visit our website. This article is for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.