What is Law?


Law is the system of rules, rights and duties imposed on a society by a sovereign. Law shapes a nation’s politics, history, economics and society in various ways and acts as a mediator of human relations.

The legal systems that govern nations differ widely from one to the next. Generally speaking, however, law is the result of political action. Its principal functions are to define the limits of public authority, to settle disputes and to punish transgressions.

The notion of the Rule of Law has been an important ideal in our political tradition for millennia. It is impossible to grasp and evaluate modern understandings of the idea without fathoming that historical heritage.

There are many different definitions of the Rule of Law. Fuller formulated principles of what he called “the inner morality of law” – namely, that laws should be epistemically accessible, and that they should embody an implicit moral commitment to the principles of public knowledge and transparent governance. Hart, on the other hand, was skeptical that these formal principles could be construed as a morality: they seemed to be instrumental principles for effective legislation.

Law relates to many social issues and raises complex questions of equality, fairness and justice. It is a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. It enables us to understand societies and people in new ways and it helps us to improve our lives. It is the basis of a huge range of professions, from advising and representing individuals to enforcing justice and administering punishment.