What Is Law?


Law is a set of principles created by a political authority that provides a framework to ensure a peaceful society. If the laws are broken, sanctions can be imposed. The legal system encompasses the principles of justice, civil rights, and criminal procedure. It also includes the custom and practice of the legal profession, legal education, and legal ethics. The legal system’s relationship to political structures is described in articles such as constitution; ideology; and political party. The law’s impact on social issues is discussed in articles such as human rights; and land reform.

From a methodological standpoint, law is unique among sciences and disciplines. It contains normative statements that tell people how they ought to behave, what they can and cannot require from others, and what they should or must do when they are confronted with certain challenges. This is a characteristic that distinguishes it from empirical science (as in the law of gravity) and even social science, which is concerned with the cause-effect relationships between people and their environment.

A further distinctive feature of law is that there is no possibility of empirical proof of its contents. Whether it should or shouldn’t comprise precepts of such import is a matter of choice; it is not an object of scientific investigation, nor can it be verified by any means other than by the use of the human mind to make sense of it.

The law is a complex and ever-changing collection of rules, precedents, and customs that are embodied in written form. These legal documents can be found in the statute books, constitutional provisions, and treatises of a nation, state or region. A number of different laws govern specific fields, such as tort law, which provides compensation for injuries to persons and their property; maritime law, which regulates commercial shipping and navigation; and labour law, which deals with the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer, and trade unions.

Other areas of law include family law, criminal law, and civil procedure, which concern the rules courts must follow as trials and appeals proceed. Evidence law covers the question of which materials are admissible in a court of law.

An underlying principle of law is that people should be treated fairly by the judicial system. However, it is often difficult to implement this principle, especially when a powerful government is in place. The complexities of modern military, police and bureaucratic power over the everyday lives of ordinary citizens pose special problems for accountability that earlier writers such as Locke or Montesquieu did not anticipate. These are some of the challenges that the law must face, and this is one of the principal reasons why the study of the law remains an important area of academic inquiry.