Understanding the Purpose of Law

Law is a way to keep the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against the will of the majority, promote social justice, and orderly social change. Some legal systems serve these purposes better than others. Some legal systems, such as the one in which authoritarian governments oppress political opponents and minority groups, do more harm than good. The legal systems of the Western world were built on colonialism and political institutions. The British, French, and German empires used law to impose peace and prosperity on countries they had conquered.

Whether a law is good or bad, it is important to understand what it is. In general, laws are set by a court of justice. To understand the true nature of a law, we need to understand its purpose and what it requires of its subjects. John Austin defined law as “an aggregate set of rules formulated by a politically superior man, intended for all men to obey.”

The study of law covers a wide range of topics, affecting virtually every aspect of our lives. Generally, law is divided into three broad categories: criminal law, civil law, and labour law. Labour law deals with the tripartite industrial relationship between employers and workers and regulates rights to strike and collective bargaining. Individual employment law deals with workplace rights and protections. Criminal and civil procedures, also known as legal procedure, concern the rights of citizens to receive a fair trial. Evidence law deals with what is admissible in court.

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