What Is Law?


Law is the body of rules that a community follows and enforces through a system of courts. It is a source of scholarly inquiry in such fields as legal history, philosophy, ethics and economic analysis. The study of law can also help us understand a culture and its traditions.

From a methodological viewpoint, there are some problems with the definition of Law. Unlike other sciences, laws are normative (prescriptive) in nature: they say how people ought to behave, or what they must or may not do. This gives them a different status from descriptive statements in empirical science, such as the law of gravity; or even social science, such as the law of demand and supply.

The principal purposes of Law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. In order to achieve these goals, a law must be clear and publicized, stable and evenly applied. It must respect individuals’ private property and contracts, and guarantee equality in access to justice and the courts. It must also be administered and adjudicated by representatives, neutrals and institutions that are accessible and reflect the makeup of society.

The field of Law is broad and complex. It includes many diverse areas, such as criminal and civil law. For example, contracts law regulates agreements to exchange goods and services, while property law defines a person’s rights and duties toward tangible personal possessions such as houses and cars, as well as intangible assets such as bank accounts and shares of stock.