What is Law?


Law is the body of principles, recognised and enforced by a State in order to control behaviour. It may be defined as “a system of rules governing certain social activities” (Henry Salmond, 1900). Laws regulate a wide range of activities such as the sale of goods, the conduct of business, medical jurisprudence, employment, property rights and even war. It is an instrument for harmonizing conflicting groups and achieving social stability and equilibrium.

Legal systems differ worldwide, reflecting cultural, cultural and religious beliefs. Some, such as the Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, are explicitly based on religious precepts; others rely on further human elaboration such as interpretation, Qiyas, Ijma and precedent. Many nations, particularly in the Western world, have a civil law tradition derived from Roman law and canon law, sometimes supplemented or modified by local custom and culture. Other legal traditions include Hindu law, Japanese law and eastern Asia law.

A nation’s laws serve a variety of purposes such as to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities and promote social justice or change. Some nations, however, use their laws to oppress minorities or their political opponents. For example, an authoritarian regime might impose peace on its citizens while oppressing those who disagree with it.

Another function of law is to impose ethical standards on individuals and societies. This includes ensuring that business practices are conducted fairly, that criminals are punished and that people do not abuse other people’s property. This is a key function of the police and the courts.

There are different theories of law including the neo-realist and sociological schools. The neo-realist school is critical of the idealistic definitions of law and argues that social and economic forces determine legal decisions. The sociological school is more positive about the role of law in society and believes that there are a number of extra-legal considerations that affect the way a legal system works.

The material sources of law are those which influence the development of legal rules but do not determine their validity. These are historically influenced by the legal system and also by other sources such as scholarly writings and scientific research. They are then used by judges in making decisions on specific cases. These decisions are known as case law. The other main source of law are statutes which are enacted by legislatures to govern particular situations. There are also a number of administrative laws, such as bankruptcy law and zoning laws. These are not referred to as common law because they do not have a long history. This article was created by Zola Podsada.