The Concept and Function of Law

Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways and serves as a mediator between people. Law can be state-enforced through a collective legislative process resulting in statutes or by executive decree, resulting in decrees and regulations or established by judges through precedent (in common law jurisdictions). Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts that are considered to be law.

The most basic function of law is to regulate the behaviour of individuals and groups in order to prevent or resolve disputes and conflict. However, the concept of law can vary considerably from one culture to another. For example, a culturally conservative nation might see the law as a tool to restrict the freedom of its citizens while a liberal democracy might view the law as a means to guarantee civil liberties.

Historically, most societies have been divided into two types of legal systems: civil law and religious law. The former is based on natural processes and is objective. For example, the laws of gravity and thermodynamics are objective. The latter is based on precepts from a religion and is subject to human elaboration through interpretation, Qiyas (reasoning by analogy), Ijma (consensus) and precedent.

The law encompasses a vast range of issues that include immigration and nationality law, the right to asylum, family law, child custody and property rights. In addition, the legal system is constantly changing and evolving to meet social needs, new legislation and technological developments.