What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules created by the state that forms a framework to ensure a peaceful society. These rules are enforced through mechanisms that can apply sanctions if they are violated. The laws are often created by a legislative body, such as parliament or a council of ministers. A person who studies or practises law is called a lawyer. The study of law involves a broad range of subjects and areas of legal expertise, including contract law, property law, criminal law, tort law, family law and labour law, to name a few.

Law has many dimensions and a complicated structure. It can be divided into two general categories: procedural and substantive. Procedural law is concerned with the guarantees of specific procedural methods and rules, while substantive law is concerned with the rights and duties that individuals are bound by. For example, civil law deals with the rights of people who are harmed by others’ actions, such as when someone gets injured in a car accident or is defamed by somebody else’s false statement. Criminal law, on the other hand, deals with offences against the state, such as murder or terrorism.

The fundamental functions of law are to promote social stability and provide for the orderly and democratic transfer of power. The way that these purposes are achieved, however, varies from nation to nation. For instance, a government that maintains peace may also oppress minorities and prevent social change, as was the case with many European nations during colonialism.

While there is a great deal of variation in the nature of law, most scholars accept that it is a form of normative science that describes what ought to happen and provides guidelines for how to make decisions. Legal decision-making is a highly complex multi-step process that includes addressing factual and normative issues, using empirical evidence, arguments from precedent and policy, and balancing interests. The ultimate goal of legal problem-solving is to create a justification for a particular claim.

Hans Kelsen developed the pure theory of law, which asserts that a law is a set of strong and binding rules that must be followed. Friedrich Karl von Savigny, on the other hand, argued that a law is something instilled in the common consciousness of a society and therefore precedes legislation. Nevertheless, all legal decision-making must be justified, meaning that it is necessary to explain why certain claims were endorsed and others rejected. This justification should be clear, transparent and objective. It should also include a discussion of the ethical and political preferences and psychological attitudes of the decision-makers, since these influence their interpretations of the available facts and legal questions.