What Is Law?

What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules created by the state which forms a framework to ensure a peaceful society and can be enforced through sanctions. There is a vast range of laws covering many areas of human life. Some examples include criminal, labour, aviation, medical jurisprudence and corporate law.

The concept of law is not easily defined, and there are a wide variety of different ideas and opinions about what constitutes law. A central theme is the notion of authority and the extent to which an individual can be trusted to follow a set of agreed-upon rules.

In the context of government, this is often a question of whether an elected official can bind his or her constituents by law. The answer to this is complicated by the fact that a constitutional democracy requires the consent of the governed, and that any government must maintain the power to punish its citizens for crimes and infractions of the peace.

This concept of a binding legal authority is the basis for most modern laws, but it can also be applied to non-governmental organizations. The most important example is the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is designed to hold individuals accountable for war crimes and other serious criminal offenses committed by members of their organization.

Most Western countries employ either a common law or civil law system. In a common law system, laws are based on decisions made by judges in cases that come to trial. These decisions are then compiled into a book called case law, and they become a binding precedent for future judges. In a civil law system, courts are given legislative powers that allow them to create statutes in addition to the existing body of case law.

In some jurisdictions, religion provides a source of law. This may be explicit, as in Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, or implicit, as in Christian canon law. The implications of religious precepts for law are often broad, and rely on further human elaboration through interpretation, Qiyas (reasoning by analogy), Ijma (consensus) and legal philosophy.

Many of the specific fields covered by law have special names. For example, labour law is concerned with the tripartite industrial relationship between employer, employee and trade union and includes issues such as health and safety or a minimum wage. Administrative law covers the rules that govern a country’s executive branch, while criminal procedure and evidence law deal with the details of how trials and appeals are conducted.