What is Law?


Law is a body of rules that governs people, places and things. It consists of statutes and common law. Statutes are laws that are enacted by legislatures, such as a state parliament (which may have a senate and house of representatives). Common law comes from precedent and the decisions of courts. It consists of rules about such things as property, contracts, torts and criminal offences. It also includes international law.

It is difficult to give a precise definition of law, as it varies between legal systems. But a basic view is that it is a set of rules created by the state which form a framework to ensure a peaceful society and that, if the laws are broken, sanctions can be imposed.

The law is shaped by the prevailing political landscape, which differs from nation to nation. There are often revolts against the existing political-legal structure, with aspirations for democracy and greater rights for citizens.

The law is the basis of a country’s civilisation, culture and identity, which can be viewed in relation to other dimensions of social life. It influences politics, economics and history, as well as shaping relationships between people. It is also an area of great debate, for example, over whether judges should be politically neutral, and if they are, how much their judgement should be influenced by the current moral climate and prevalent theories of right and wrong. The study of law involves a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, sociology and the history of ideas.