What Is Law?

What Is Law?


Law is the set of rules that governs human interactions. It can be enacted by a single legislator, resulting in statutes; by the executive, in decrees and regulations; or through the judiciary, with rulings and precedent (in common law jurisdictions). Law may also be privately created, such as contracts and arbitration agreements that are legally binding. It is a fundamental tool for social control, with the power to coerce and punish individuals.

The exact nature of laws is a matter of debate, with many schools of thought developing competing definitions of “law”. The influential utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham defines law as “commands, backed by the threat of sanctions, from a sovereign to whom people have a habit of obedience”. Others, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Aquinas, argue that law reflects immutable moral and natural principles.

Modern law includes a vast array of fields, covering everything from labour to taxation to property. Some fields, such as constitutional and international law, are more concerned with political issues. Others, such as tort and evidence law, are more focused on specific procedures.

While a career in law can be lucrative, it is not for the faint of heart. Lawyers must follow strict ethical guidelines and are constantly updating their legal knowledge. They must be able to interpret complex legislation and make logical arguments. Moreover, they must be able to balance their client’s interests against those of society as a whole.

Law has a close relationship to the economy and social structure, with the law influencing economic behaviour and regulating the allocation of resources. The law has a strong influence on the social order and is a source of identity for citizens. It is the foundation of freedom and democracy. The responsibilities of the state include ensuring core human rights and contract and procedural rights are enforceable, whilst balancing security with the economy and maintaining a good environment.

The study of law encompasses a range of fields and methods, including philosophy of law, sociology of law and economics. It is also a core component of the social sciences, particularly history, sociology and political science. Other subjects that use a large amount of law include accounting and business administration. Legal terms and vocabulary can be complicated, and it is important to be familiar with them when researching any topic involving the law.