What Is Law?

Law is the framework that ensures a peaceful society by regulating behaviour, enforcing rights and punishing wrongdoers. It can be created by state-enforced institutions such as police and government agencies, by private individuals through legal contracts, or by religious communities through their canons, with a common distinction between laws established through collective legislature (resulting in statutes) and those established through judge-made precedent (usually in “common law” jurisdictions).

Law shapes politics, economics, history and culture in many ways. It is a major factor in the power imbalance between people or groups; a stable legal system can only be maintained when it is supported by powerful political entities that can exercise control over military and civil force to enforce it. Consequently, each year there are a number of revolts or rebellions against existing political-legal authority.

The study of law, or jurisprudence, is becoming increasingly popular with students, and careers as lawyers and judges are also in demand. However, it can be difficult to explain what law is, because different legal systems have very different ideas about the definition of the word. Nonetheless, it can be agreed that the most important functions of law are to: