Traditionally, legal theory emphasized normative limits on the use of force by coercive power. It was in this period that the concept of “natural law” emerged in mainstream culture through the writings of Thomas Aquinas.
Law is a set of rules and social institutions that are enforceable by governmental institutions. Common synonyms for law include statute, rule, regulation and precept.
A legal issue is a question or problem that requires a court decision to resolve. The outcome of a legal issue depends on how the court interprets the law. The rule of law refers to four universal principles, developed in accordance with internationally accepted standards.
One of these principles is the doctrine of precedent, which states that a decision by one court binds future decisions by other courts. The doctrine of precedent can be found in common law legal systems.
A second principle is that of justice, which is a fair process of adjudication delivered by impartial or neutral representatives with adequate resources. The rule of justice is often associated with the notion of religion. Religion for law can mean the unalterable word of God.
A third principle is that of the rule of law, which defines law as a set of rules enforceable by social institutions. Law serves several important functions, including orderly social change, preserving individual rights and maintaining status quo. Law can also serve to maintain peace in a nation.
In a modern nation state, law is a function of political power. Political power may come from a government, executive, or legislature. A nation state can be ruled by an authoritarian government or by a democracy.