What Is Law?


Law is a set of rules that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. These laws are enforced by mechanisms created by the state and, if they are broken or breached, sanctions can be imposed. Law is a complex concept, and many books have been written containing numerous different ideas about what it means. It is impossible to give a simple definition of law, but there are some key elements that can be identified. These include the ability for people to understand the law, for it to be reasonably stable, and for people to know the legal consequences of their actions.

The nature of the law is different in every society, but its function remains the same. The four principal functions of the law are setting standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Some governments do this more effectively than others, but even in the case of the most authoritarian regimes, these basic purposes remain (albeit with varying degrees of success) true.

Many different types of law exist, ranging from the ancient, such as a coroners’ court with an 800-year history, to modern forensic science, where a judge can use his laptop computer to write a judgment. There is also a huge variety of social settings and disputes to which the law can be applied, from conflicts between individuals such as car accidents or defamation, to offenses against a nation itself, such as an armed rebellion.

Most countries have a codified constitution with a bill of rights, while others have no such document. The constitution sets out the relationships between executive, legislature and judiciary branches of the government. Labour law relates to the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade unions. Tort law relates to compensation for damage caused by accident or malicious intent. Criminal law is concerned with the prosecution of offenders, and civil law relates to the procedures by which cases are heard by judges.

In addition to a wide range of specific laws, there is also a body of unwritten law known as common law, which relies on judicial precedent rather than legislative enactment. This type of law is based on the institutionalized opinions and interpretations of a number of authoritative sources, including judicial authorities and public juries. This kind of law, which is often referred to as stare decisis, can sometimes serve as the inspiration for new legislation. However, there are some problems with this type of law. For one thing, it can be difficult to determine who has the authority to make and enforce it. In the end, it is always a question of political power, and there are revolts against the law each year from people who believe that existing laws are unjust or oppressive.