Law is a set of rules created by society or government institutions to regulate behaviour. It is a complex subject, and its precise definition is debated. However, it is generally agreed that the primary purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving conflict and protecting liberty and rights. Law also imposes restrictions on society that serve social and economic interests.
The nature of law varies from place to place. In some areas, laws are more strict than in others. For example, in some countries, a traffic violation is a serious offense that can result in fines or imprisonment. In other countries, such violations are tolerated more readily. Laws can also vary in terms of how they are interpreted by judges or lawyers. For example, in the United States, the law is interpreted differently by federal courts than it is by state courts.
Despite its complexity, law is one of the most important aspects of any society. Without it, people would be at the mercy of individuals with vested interests, such as criminals or corrupt officials. Moreover, without the stability provided by stable governments, social discord and unrest could lead to tyranny.
It is for these reasons that the development and maintenance of law are such an essential part of any human society.
History of law
The origins of modern legal systems are not completely clear. Nevertheless, there are a number of key developments that have shaped contemporary legal thinking. One of the most significant is the rise of professional jurisprudence and the development of codes or sets of rules that judges follow when making decisions in cases.
In addition, the increasing globalization of the economy has impacted law by requiring the creation of international treaties and the need to translate legislation into different languages for use in courts abroad.
While these developments have influenced the overall form of law, many areas remain rooted in ancient traditions. For example, Roman law was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and underwent major codification during the reigns of Theodosius II and Justinian I. These early codes were followed during the Middle Ages by a series of Latin legal maxims called brocards. These were later incorporated into common law, which is still the basis of the modern legal system.
Law in context
While the general subjects of law are fairly well defined, there are many sub-disciplines within the field. These include: