What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is a source of social control and it addresses such issues as property ownership, rights, and punishment for criminal activities. It is also a topic of scholarly inquiry and debate in such fields as legal history, philosophy, sociology, and economic analysis.

Law includes a body of principles or codes that govern human relationships, such as contracts, torts, and property. It also includes the rights and duties of a citizen to their government, the environment, and other citizens. The law may be codified in the form of statutes, regulations, or court decisions. The law may be derived from a constitution or it may be developed through judicial precedent (as in the case of common law jurisdictions). It may also be established by a collective legislature through statutory creation.

A key concept in law is the rule of reason, which means that a judge’s decision should be consistent with what is true or morally correct and should not be based on emotion or other personal considerations. Another guiding principle of law is that it should be consistent across locations and times, so that the same legal standard applies to all persons and situations in the same way.

The different kinds of law can be categorized according to their governing authority, which is usually a central government or local legislature. The most important kind of law is civil law, which covers most matters involving human relations, such as contract laws, torts, family law, and consumer protection. Civil law systems are found in about 60% of the world’s nations. Another kind of law is criminal law, which deals with conduct that violates public order and safety and which can result in imprisonment or fines.

Other types of law include administrative law, which regulates businesses and governmental agencies, and constitutional law, which defines the structure of a state or nation and establishes fundamental principles. A law can also be a religious or spiritual teaching, such as the Ten Commandments.

The law is highly complex from a methodological point of view, as it has normative as well as descriptive statements. The normative statements are what judges or legislators think people ought to do, whereas the descriptive statements are facts that have been observed and reported by science, such as the law of gravity. This is a distinctive feature of law that makes it more complicated than other areas of knowledge. It is this complexity that makes the study of law fascinating.