What is Law?


Law is a system of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It can be enforced by state institutions, such as police forces or courts, or by private individuals through contracts. It can also be a shield, protecting businesses from criminal prosecution or the threat of legal action by competitors, and it can be used as a sword, punishing individuals who break certain rules.

Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It can be difficult to give a precise definition of law, as different philosophies and theories have competing views. Utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham have defined law as commands, backed by the threat of sanctions, from a sovereign, to which people have a natural tendency to obey. Other theorists, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, have argued that law reflects innate moral laws of nature.

The study of law can be highly technical and often involves a complex interplay between common law, constitutional law, statutory law and regulatory law. Other areas of law include labour law, which studies the tripartite relationship between employee, employer and trade unions and individual employment rights; family law, which deals with marriage, divorce and child custody; property law, which examines who can own land (real estate) and how it can be legally confirmed or protected, and what kinds of promises courts should enforce; and tort law, which investigates what kind of harm a plaintiff has suffered when there is no contract.