What Is Law?


Law is the body of rules and principles that govern human behavior. It serves many purposes, including establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.

Laws are created by legislatures and interpreted by judges and courts, and are based on legal theories that differ in their method of reasoning (applying the law) and interpreting it (construing it). These laws vary from country to country, but in some jurisdictions, all law is codified, meaning that they are set out in an authoritative document.

There are three major categories of law: civil, criminal and labour. Each category has its own purpose and scope, although some overlap.

Civil law focuses on regulating relations between individuals, communities and institutions; it also includes some areas of private life such as commercial and family law. It is typically a well-organized system, with codification and a logical taxonomy that helps citizens understand their rights and duties.

Criminal law concerns a person’s right to fair trial and the rules that apply as a trial or appeal proceeds. It also covers evidence and the procedures for determining guilt or innocence.

Labor law covers a tripartite industrial relationship between workers, employers and trade unions, with collective bargaining regulation and the right to strike. It is also concerned with workplace safety and the minimum wage.

Competition law is another area of law that aims to control business practices that may deprive consumers of their rights. It is a complex field that has roots as far back as Roman decrees against price fixing and the English restraint of trade doctrine.

Religious law is a special branch of law that is rooted in religion and whose laws are based on religious precepts, such as the Jewish Halakha or Islamic Sharia. Some church communities have their own legal systems based on canon law, which is derived from the Christian scriptures.

Justification is a method of determining whether a legal right is valid, or has a legal status as a rule that must be abided by (Raz 1970: 175-183; MacCormick 1977: 189 & 206; Sumner 1987: 68-70; Raz 1994: 258-263; Wellman 1995: 24-29). It usually involves a legal norm grounding, a source of law that justifies the existence of a certain right.

Some scholars consider rights as small-scale sovereigns, whose authority to control others is granted by a set of rights that function to give right-holders normative power over a particular domain (Hart 1982: 183-4; 1983: 35). They also fit Hohfeldian privileges and powers, which are the right-holder’s ability to alter, annul, waive or transfer any obligations owed by another right-holder to him or her.

The law also imposes penalties on people who break the rules, such as jail time for a crime or fines for breaking a contract. Its goal is to ensure that a society functions as peacefully and effectively as possible, without causing too much trouble or harm.