What Is Law?

Law is a multifaceted concept that encompasses the set of precepts and guidelines that are geared to control human behavior and maintain societal order. It acts as a tool to deal with issues of justice, morality, reason, and honesty from both the judicial and societal viewpoints. Its wide-ranging fields and evolving nature underscore its importance in the development of civilizations.

Many people use the term ‘law’ to refer to any strong rule that an authority dictates must be obeyed. But it also can be used to describe any natural or instinctive behavior that must be followed. For example, if someone is in danger and must fight for their life, that instinctive reaction could be described as ‘law.’ But, it is important to remember that just because something is natural or instinctive doesn’t necessarily make it a law.

Some people believe that the only true law is power backed by threats. Therefore, if a sovereign can issue an order that must be followed despite its arbitrary nature or its bad consequences, then it will become a law. This view explains why some tyrannical dictators can get away with horrible atrocities, such as the Holocaust and Saddam Hussein’s routine torture and execution of political opponents and minority Sunni Muslims.

A more scholarly approach to law involves its underlying philosophy and the ways in which it is created, enforced, or resisted. Roscoe Pound, for example, came up with a theory that law is primarily a social engineering device, wherein the pulls of political philosophy, economic interests, and ethical values are constantly competing for recognition. This view has its critics, however, who argue that this approach to law is merely an attempt to disguise coercion as a legitimate means of social control.