What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules that governs human conduct and social relations. It is an important field of study because it shapes politics, economics and history as well as providing a framework for resolving disputes. It is also a major source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy and sociology.

Generally, there are two types of laws: natural law and positive law. Natural law is a body of principles governing human conduct derived from right reason and views of the nature of man. It is binding on all states and nations regardless of their political systems and is universally applicable. Positive law, on the other hand, is a collection of rules enacted by a particular state or community. This can be in the form of legislation, constitutional laws or judicial decisions that establish precedent.

In some countries, a single body codifies and consolidates law into one system of statutes. In others, there is a dual system of law that is largely separate: statutory law, which is compiled by legislatures, and common law, which is based on judge-made precedent. In addition, some jurisdictions have a third type of law, religious law.

The purpose of law is to protect individual rights, maintain the status quo, provide for orderly social change, and promote justice. However, some governments use the power of law to censor or restrict freedoms, oppress minorities, and commit crimes. The use of force by the military is another form of law that may be abused.

Law has many aspects, and the precise definition is a matter of debate. It has been described as a science, an art and a profession. Law scholars have classified it into several fields, including criminal law, civil law, contract law, and property law. Other important areas of study include administrative law, constitutional law, criminology, and sociology.

The most important function of law is to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. In general, a law will command what is to be done and prohibit what is not to be done. It will impose sanctions on those who violate the law. The Bible teaches that God’s law is the standard for moral behavior (Romans 3:19) and shows sinners their need for a Savior to redeem them from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).

The law can be categorized into several sub-fields, depending on its subject. For example, immigration law and nationality law concern the right of foreigners to live and work in a nation-state that is not their own; employment law relates to workers’ wages, benefits and working conditions; family law focuses on marriage and divorce proceedings; and transactional law relates to business. In the US, these subjects are governed by federal and state legislation, and there is also local legislation and customary law in many areas. Legal practitioners must be familiar with these laws and how they relate to each other. They must also be aware of the latest developments in their field.