What is Law?


Law is a set of norms or rules which govern human behavior in society. It shapes politics, economics, history and social life in many ways.

Definitions of law vary widely. For example, the utilitarian view of law is that it contains a set of rules that govern human conduct and are backed by threats of punishment. Natural lawyers, on the other hand, consider law to be based on essentially moral and unchangeable laws of nature.

Hans Kelsen, who invented the ‘pure theory of law’, defined law as a ‘normative science’, which does not seek to describe what must occur but defines rules that individuals have to abide by.

Friedrich Karl von Savigny gave the historical law definition, which stated that law is not a result of direct legislation but is due to the silent growth of custom or the outcome of unformulated public or professional opinion. It consists partly of social habitat and partly of experience.

Property law is concerned with the rights of ownership and possession of real and personal goods, including land and things attached to it. It includes, for example, mortgages, rental agreements, licensing, covenants, easements and statutory systems of land registration.

Regulation, on the other hand, deals with how services are provided to the population, such as water, energy and telecoms. It also involves the social responsibility of the providers of these services.

Legal rights differ from moral or immoral rights in several important respects, most notably in that they are typically enforceable and oriented towards practical application (Fitzgerald [Salmond] 1966: 233). In addition to these normative characteristics, legal rights often exhibit features absent or more muted in rights found in normative systems of non-legal institutions such as social clubs, trade unions, or universities. These features largely derive from law’s relative greater social importance; its claim to supremacy over other institutional normative systems under law’s jurisdiction; the far greater range of activities that can and typically do fall under law’s domain; its compulsoriness; and, its commonly greater use of remedies, sanctions, and violence.

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