Law is the collection of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating its members’ behavior. It encompasses a broad range of topics from crimes and property to contract and privacy. Laws are enforced by a variety of agencies, including police, judges and prosecutors. The study of law includes the history of laws, legal process, and major debates in legal theory.
A number of theories of law exist, with some arguing that a law is an indisputable fact about the way the world works, while others are more concerned with the meaning and purpose of a particular law. For example, a law may regulate behaviors in order to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, promote social change, or protect minorities against majorities. The precise meaning of a law has been a subject of intense debate for centuries.
One of the most common definitions of law is that it consists of the rules imposed by the state in accordance with its power to constrain the actions of its citizens. A number of theorists have argued that this interpretation misunderstands the nature and function of a law.
Dean Roscoe Pound, for instance, argues that a law is an instrument for satisfying society’s social wants. He also believes that a law should be interpreted according to its purpose, not its contents. This view of a law is known as the sociological school of law. It is an approach that a number of contemporary theorists have used to explain and interpret law.