Types of Law


Various legal systems are in place to serve a variety of purposes, from maintaining the status quo to preserving individual rights, protecting minorities from majorities to promoting social justice and orderly social change. Some legal systems serve these purposes better than others, however. For example, authoritarian governments often suppress the rights of political opponents and minority groups, and colonialism often imposed peace on countries. The resulting empires have varying degrees of the law’s coercive and sanction-imposing functions.

Legal theory requires that we accept certain evaluative claims, but not necessarily thick ones. For example, “the function of X is F” is naturally classified as a thin evaluative claim, which is similar to “X is important for Y” but hardly the same. Similarly, asserting that law performs a certain function does not automatically imply that it is morally good. A legal theory does not require the existence of moral good, whereas a normative theory does.

In contrast, private law encompasses a broad range of legal relations among people. These may include commercial activities, pure status matters, or other matters involving assets. Under private law, participants are presumed to be legal equals but cannot make orders or regulations to others without their consent. Often, these systems help cut down on costs associated with litigation, since they allow the parties to change patterns and make changes to existing laws. Listed below are some common types of law.

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