Law is a set of rules that a society or government develops to control human behaviour and deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It is enforced by a police force and courts. People who study law are called lawyers or jurists.
Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It is also a mediator of relations between people. It can help to bring about changes in people’s daily lives. However, laws can also be harmful and lead to oppression of minorities by majorities. This can happen when a state imposes its will on a country that does not want it.
There are many different types of law. One type is intellectual property law, which covers things like copyright and trademarks. Another is labour law, which covers things like wages and workplace rights. Another type of law is civil and criminal procedure, which deals with how trials and appeals are conducted.
Most countries have a constitution that sets out the overall framework of their legal system. They then make further laws to cover more detailed issues. For example, the constitution might state how the courts should decide who owns a piece of land or how much compensation a person should receive when their property is damaged by someone else’s action.
In general, there are some basic goals that all laws try to achieve. These include:
Keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo and protecting rights. Laws can also be used to regulate industries, such as banking or utilities. For example, water, gas and electricity companies are generally regulated by the law in most countries.
Some scholars have come up with different definitions of what law is. Hans Kelsen proposed the ‘pure theory of law’, which states that the law does not seek to describe what must occur, but defines certain rules that individuals have to abide by. Roscoe Pound developed a more complex definition of law, which says that it is a means of social control.
In addition to regulating the activities of a society, the law can also define people’s personal and family rights. For instance, a court can determine whether a marriage is valid or not, and who has the right to raise children. It can also decide what punishment a person should receive for breaking the law.
Laws can be made by a group of legislators, resulting in statutes; by the executive, resulting in decrees and regulations; or by judges through precedent, resulting in common law. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts, which may be enforceable under law.
Different cultures use different systems of law. For example, Aboriginal people have a concept of law that differs from the Western idea of what the law is. This can be because the culture’s views of what is acceptable and unacceptable are not based on the same values as the modern Western world.