Understanding the Nature of Law

Law is a body of rules developed to deal with crime, business, social relationships, property and finance. It is enforced by a controlling authority. The term can also refer to a particular set of practices and customs that are seen as binding by a community.

The precise definition of law is a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It is a mediator of relations between people and serves as a standard for human behaviour.

Legal issues vary enormously from nation to nation, but some of the main areas are:

The process of making and enforcing laws is a complex one. Laws can be made by a legislature, resulting in statutes; by the executive, in the form of decrees and regulations; or through precedent, as in common law jurisdictions. Individuals can also create their own legally binding contracts and alternative dispute resolution methods.

An understanding of the nature of law requires a clear distinction between it and similar normative domains, such as morality, religion and social conventions. This distinction is important because it will determine whether it can be understood and used in a scientific way. It will also determine the degree to which it is intelligible, and thus enforceable, without these other normative orders. It is also important to understand the relationship between law and a state’s constitution, written or tacit.