What Is Law?


Law relates to the rules of a society, or a nation-state, that are used for defending one’s rights, securing justice and so forth. It includes the professions that deal with such rules, for example lawyers and judges.

Many branches of law relate to different aspects of human activities. For example tort law involves compensation for harmed people or their property, and criminal law provides punishments for offenses against a community. Immigration and nationality law deals with the right to live in a country that is not one’s own, to acquire or lose citizenship and to have children there. Family law is concerned with marriage, divorce and rights to property and money in the event of separation.

The function of the law in society is often a subject of controversy. Hans Kelsen, for instance, proposed the ‘pure theory of law’ which defined law as a normative science that does not describe what must occur but simply defines the rules to abide by. Twentieth century legal positivists, however, tended to deny that coercion is essential for the fulfillment of law’s social functions and argue that laws may be based on a variety of reasons.

Law is a part of our everyday lives, shaping politics, history, economics and society in a multitude of ways. It is, therefore, a complex and fascinating area of study. The question of what makes a good law is a particularly important one. In the modern world, for example, laws that do not fit a society’s cultural values or do not respect the individual are not considered to be good law.