What is Law?

Law is a set of rules created by an authority that citizens must obey, or face punishment. It is a complex concept that is the subject of many books and debates.

It is often regarded as a discipline and profession, but it can also be described as an art, science, philosophy, and religion. Law is a part of the fabric of society that regulates behaviour, establishes standards and maintains order in society. It can shape politics, economics, history and culture in a wide variety of ways.

The term law derives from the Old Norse lag, meaning “laying down of order.” The principal purposes of law are to establish standards, prevent or resolve disputes, and protect liberties and rights. Laws can be general, such as those relating to the safety of travellers, or they can be specific, such as those governing the ownership of property.

The legal system varies from nation to nation. The most significant difference is in the power that the state, or government, has to make and enforce laws. This is a result of the political landscape, and in many countries revolutions are triggered by discontent with the established law-making-and-enforcement structure.

One of the most fundamental laws is that of Magna Carta, which established the principle that a judge’s decision cannot be overturned by the king himself. This laid the foundation for due process, which is now a fundamental element of most western civil systems. Other areas of law include contract law, which deals with agreements and contracts; intellectual property, which covers patents, trademarks, copyrights and similar issues; property law (including real property, i.e., land and buildings; and personal property such as jewellery, cars and computer games); family law; labour law; maritime law; medical jurisprudence; and procedure.