- Introduction to Law
- What is Law?
- Types of Law
- Related Fields
- Related Fields
- Related Work and Conclusions
- The Legal History of Law
Introduction to Law
Law, body of official rules and regulations, generally found in constitutions, legislation, judicial opinions, and the like, that is used to govern a society and to control the behavior of its members. The nature and functions of law have varied throughout history. In modern societies, some authorized body such as a legislature or a court makes the law. It is backed by the coercive power of the state, which enforces the law by means of appropriate penalties or remedies.
Formal legal rules and actions are usually distinguished from other means of social control and guides for behavior such as mores, morality, public opinion, and custom or tradition. Of course, a lawmaker may respond to public opinion or other pressures, and a formal law may prohibit what is morally unacceptable.
Law serves a variety of functions. Laws against crimes, for example, help to maintain a peaceful, orderly, relatively stable society. Courts contribute to social stability by resolving disputes in a civilized fashion. Property and contract laws facilitate business activities and private planning. Laws limiting the powers of government help to provide some degree of freedom that would not otherwise be possible. Law has also been used as a mechanism for social change; for instance, at various times laws have been passed to inhibit social discrimination and to improve the quality of individual life in matters of health, education, and welfare.
Some experts believe the popular view of law overemphasizes its formal, coercive aspects. They point out that if a custom or norm is assured of judicial backing, it is, for practical purposes, law. On the other hand, a statute that is neither obeyed nor enforced is empty law. Social attitudes toward the formal law are a significant part of the law in process. The role of law in China and Japan, for example, is somewhat different from its role in Western nations. Respect for the processes of law is low, at least outside matters of business and industry. Tradition looms much larger in everyday life. Resort to legal resolution of a dispute is truly a last resort, with conciliation being the mechanism that is preferred for social control.
Law is not completely a matter of human enactment; it also includes natural law. The best-known version of this view, that God’s law is supreme, has had considerable influence in the United States and other Western societies. The civil rights movement, for example, was at least partially inspired by the belief in natural law. Such a belief seems implicit in the view that law should serve to promote human dignity, as for instance by the enforcement of equal rights for all. Muslim societies also embrace a kind of natural law, which is closely linked to the religion of Islam.” (1)
What is Law?
The question ‘What is law?Â’ has troubled people for many years. Scientists devote an entire field of study known as jurisprudence to answering this question. Many definitions of law exist, but for our purposes, we can define law as the set of rules and regulations by which a government regulates the conduct of people within a society. Even with this explanation, many questions arise. Where do laws come from? Do we need laws? Are all laws written? Can laws change? If so, how? What is the difference between laws and morals?
To understand the law, we must consider the relationship of law to morals. Traditional ideas of right and wrong influence our legal system. Thus, most people condemn murder, regardless of what the law says. However, everything that they consider immoral is not necessarily illegal. For example, lying to a friend may be immoral but not really illegal.
One thing is certain: every society that has ever existed has recognized the need for law. These laws may have been written, but even primitive people had rules to regulate the conduct of the group. For a very long time now, members of every community have made laws for themselves in self-protection. Without laws, there would be confusion, fear, and disorder. This does not mean that all laws are fair or even good, but imagine how people might take advantage of one another without some set of rules. We are far better off with the imperfect laws which we have, than if we had none at all.
Law serves a variety of functions. It helps to maintain a peaceful, orderly, relatively stable society, to contribute to social stability by resolving disputes in civilized fashion, to facilitate business activities and private planning, to provide some degree of freedom that would not otherwise be possible, to inhibit social discrimination and improve the quality of individual life in matters of health, education and welfare. The law is an enabler, something that permits us to enjoy rights within the framework of an ordered society. In many ways law is the cornerstone of our culture. The rule of law provides society with the rules by which all of us live. Citizens can know the law and live their lives accordingly.
Law is the whole set of rules that are supported by the power of government and that control the behavior of members of a society. The law itself provides the basic structure within which commerce and industry operate. It safeguards the rights of individuals, regulates their dealings with others and enforces the duties of government.
Types of Law
There are two main kinds of the law – public and private (civil). Private law concerns disputes among citizens within a country, and public law concerns disputes between citizens and the state, or between one state and another. The system of law consists of different categories of law. Constitutional law is a leading category of the whole system of law. Its principal source is the country’s Constitution. It deals with social structure, state system, organization of state power and the legal status of citizens. Most countries have a formal written Constitution describing how laws are to be made and enforced.
Administrative law is closely connected with constitutional law but it deals with the legal forms of particular executive and administrative activity of a government and ministries. Criminal law defines the general principles of criminal16 responsibility, individual types of crimes and punishment applied to criminals. Crimes are wrongs which, even committed against an individual are considered to18 harm the well-being of society in general. Criminal law takes the form of a criminal code.
International law regulates relations between government and also between private citizens of one country and those of another. Financial law regulates the budget, taxation, credits and other spheres of financial activity. Civil law is connected with relations in the economic sphere of life, with relations involving property, its distribution and allocation. The right in property is the central institution of civil law. The rules of employment law include legislation on the employment of industrial and office workers and regulate matters arising from employment relations.
As well as defining the powers of government, most constitutions describe the fundamental rights of citizens. These usually include general declarations about freedom and equality, but, also some specific provisions. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was first adopted in 1950 and has now been signed by every country of Western Europe Individual citizens of these countries have the right to bring a complaint before the European Commission if they think their government has broken the Convention. But despite the development of legally binding national and international conventions, millions of people in the world still do not enjoy34 human rights.
Laws fall into two major groups: criminal and civil. Criminal laws regulate public conduct and set our duties owed to society. A criminal case is a legal action by the government against a person charged with committing a crime. Criminal laws have penalties requiring that offenders should be imprisoned, fined, placed under supervision, or punished in some other way.
Civil laws regulate relations between individuals or group of individuals. A person can bring a civil action (lawsuit) when this person feels wronged or injured by another person. Civil laws regulate many everyday situations such as marriage, divorce, contracts, real estate, insurance, consumer protection and negligence.
Related topics include:
Rule of Law
Related topics include:
White Collar Worker
Blue Collar Worker
This entry provides an overview of the legal framework of law, with a description of the most significant features of law at international level.
Related Work and Conclusions
- Rule of Law
- Law System
- Religion And Marriage Equality Statutes, Nelson Tebbe, Sep 2017
- Religion And Social Coherentism, Nelson Tebbe, Sep 2017
- The University Of The Future Has Already Arrived, Stanley Fish, Jul 2017
- Breaking The Cycle: An Exploratory Study Of Alternative Solutions For Mentally Ill Adults In The Criminal Justice System, Lindsey Whitley, Jul 2017
- Florida’S Contradiction And The Tipped Employees’ Plight: Why The Florida Civil Rights Act Of 1992 Mandates That Florida Raise The Tipped Minimum Wage And The Necessary Standard Of Review, Jamy E. Barreau, Jun 2017
- The Role Of The Judiciary When The Agency Confirmation Process Stalls: Thoughts On The Two-Member Nlrb And The Questions The Supreme Court Should Have, But Didn’T, Address In New Process Steel, L.P. V. Nlrb, Catherine L. Fisk, May 2017
Law and Society
Law and Liberty
Public versus Private Law
Notes and References
- Information about Law in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia
Guide to Law
The Legal History of Law
This section provides an overview of Law
- Legal Biography
- Legal Traditions
- Historical Laws
- History of Law
- Law in the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (Oxford University Press)
- The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Political and Legal History (Oxford University Press)
- Law in the Dictionary of Concepts in History, by Harry Ritter
- A Short History of Western Legal Theory, by John Kelly
Spanish Translation of law
This is the legal translation of English to Spanish in relation to law and / or a definition of this topic: Derecho (in Spanish, without translation of the dictionary entry).
Spanish Translation of law
This is the legal translation of English to Spanish in relation to law and / or a definition of this topic: Ley (in Spanish, without translation of the dictionary entry).