The Nature of Law


Law is the set of rules and regulations made by social or governmental institutions to regulate people’s behaviour. It encompasses a wide range of subjects, from laws about space travel to the rules that govern taxation and banking. It also deals with day-to-day issues such as family, housing and money. Law is a complex area to study, and one that cannot be verified empirically. However, it is known that the existence of law is dependent on human action and that it cannot mandate behaviours that are impossible to achieve.

The precise nature of law varies from place to place, but most nation-states recognise that they have a legal system and that it shapes politics and society in various ways. There are civil law jurisdictions, where legislation is enacted by parliament, and common law systems that rely on judicial precedent. Religious laws, such as Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia, have a central role in some communities, and Christian canon law survives in some church communities.

The scholarly community has developed the concept of the Rule of Law, which is an aspiration for all states to adopt. This concept emphasises four universal principles: accountability to law, access to lawful justice, equality before the law and transparency of government. The gap between the rule of law ideal and the actual experience of law differs greatly from rich to poor nations. This is a result of the difference between individual stories of inequality and the codified community narrative of equal justice for all, which is, by definition, impersonal.