What is Law?


Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. Law is a complex concept, and its precise definition is a matter of ongoing debate. However, the term can be broadly defined as a system of precepts, enacted by authorities, that regulate behaviour and are enforced through penalties. Law can also refer to the profession of a lawyer or judge, or any other person who specialises in laws and legal processes.

The study of law is generally divided into three broad categories, though the subjects within each category frequently overlap: public, private and commercial. Core goals of a legal system include accountability, fair treatment, open government and access to justice. The rule of law refers to the extent to which these principles are upheld.

Legal systems vary around the world, with some using case law (based on judges’ decisions from real-life cases) while others use statutes and codes of procedure. Some are based on religious precepts, for example, the Jewish Halakhah or Islamic Sharia. Other legal systems are based on the idea of natural rights and a duty to society, for example, constitutional law, and the rule of reason.

It is possible for a culture to develop a concept of law that does not divide reality into nature/human and human/non-human, but such cultures are rare. For instance, the Inuit people have a concept of law that does not divide nature and humanity, which has been used as a model by modern aboriginal governance scholars.