What Is Law?


Law is the system of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has variously been described as a science, an art or a social institution. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways and relates to many different areas of human endeavor, according to Oxford Reference.

Law governs property ownership, contracts and disputes between individuals. It also establishes and regulates public services such as water, electricity and transport, and provides guidelines for businesses to operate within a framework of responsibilities and restrictions. It is the basis for a civilized society.

It is the source of a great deal of scholarly inquiry into legal philosophy, history, economic analysis and sociology, and raises many difficult issues concerning equality and justice. Its unique methodological characteristics make it a distinct discipline in its own right. Law statements have a normative or prescriptive nature, which distinguishes it from the descriptive or causal statements of empirical or social sciences (such as the law of gravity or the law of supply and demand).

Legal systems vary widely from one nation to another. Some are based on religious principles, some are derived from a central legislative authority through codified statutes, and others are established by judges through precedent in common law jurisdictions. In addition, there are international laws and treaties, and an increasing number of countries have a constitution that lays out their political-legal landscape. There is a constant struggle over who has the power to make and enforce laws.