Law is the system of rules, customs and precedent that governs the relationships among individuals, groups and institutions in society. Law encompasses everything from the rules a person must follow to obtain employment, to the rights of citizens to freedom and property, to the responsibilities of a state or nation. Throughout history, law has been influenced by philosophy and has undergone significant development. For example, Roman law developed into detailed legal codes that were then copied by medieval jurists in Europe. Then, as the legal profession emerged in the 18th century, the law was reshaped by the ideas of Montesquieu and Locke. Later, the influence of Max Weber reshaped thinking on the extension of government and the nature of political power.
Most of the time, when we think of “law,” we mean a set of government-imposed rules that people must follow. For instance, if you break the law against stealing, you might be fined or put in jail. However, the law can also be used to refer to more general rules, such as a country’s laws against murder.
The law is a complex subject, and its meanings are often contradictory. The law is a system of rules and regulations that must balance conflicting priorities, such as preserving the safety of the public or protecting private property. Moreover, there are limits to what can be accomplished through the law. For example, it is impossible to guarantee that everyone will obey the law. Consequently, the law is not a completely objective system of justice.
Despite the contradictions and limitations of law, many people value it for several reasons. One reason is that the Rule of Law makes the exercise of political power less arbitrary, more predictable and less coercive. Moreover, the Rule of Law establishes what Fuller (1964) called a bond of reciprocity between the ruler and the ruled.
Another reason for people to value the law is that it reduces the amount of asymmetry between the social world and human nature. In the absence of law, human societies would tend to become highly stratified and inequitable. The Rule of Law mitigates this asymmetry by imposing rules that people must follow.
A final reason why people value the law is that it imposes certain moral standards on people. The law provides a standard for what is ethically acceptable in human relations and serves to limit the immoral actions that might otherwise occur.
The subject of Law is vast and varies greatly from one discipline to the next. Some broad categories of law include labor law, criminal law and civil law. Labor law addresses the tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade unions and includes laws governing such issues as working conditions and the right to strike. Criminal law covers issues such as homicide, burglary and larceny. Civil law addresses such issues as the right to a fair trial and the rules of evidence. Other areas of law include environmental protection and space law.