Law is the system of rules that a community or a state recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. It is enforced by governmental institutions, and its precise nature is the subject of long-standing debate. Law consists of both the statutory laws passed by legislatures, which are codified in statutes, and the legal precedent established by judges through case law.
The purpose of law is to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. It is complex from a methodological point of view, since laws are both normative and prescriptive. This deprives them of the descriptive or causal character which characterizes empirical science (such as the law of gravity) and other social sciences, like economics.
Nevertheless, law is of significant interest from many perspectives, including the intellectual curiosity generated by its intrinsic complexity and the practical concern with such issues as how to best administer justice and how to deal with the exploitation of individuals by powerful corporations and other organized criminal groups. It is also an interesting object of study for philosophers and psychologists because of its contested status as a form of morality, a system of beliefs or a set of practical instructions.
The articles that follow cover three broad areas of law – the core subjects of constitutional, administrative and criminal law. However, the subjects intertwine and overlap. For example, labour law is concerned with the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade unions, while civil procedure and evidence law involve the rules that courts must follow as a trial or appeal proceeds.