What Is Law?

Law is the system of rules that creates a framework to ensure a peaceful society and punishes people who break those rules. These rules help people cooperate with each other and share responsibilities and resources. Laws also protect the rights of individual people. Law includes both written and unwritten codes. Law also includes the social institutions and communities that support and enforce legal rules. For example, a community may develop its own customs and practices to support the law. Law can also refer to a particular geographic area, such as a state or country.

The word law comes from the Old Norse lag, which means “laying order” or “setting a fixed tune.” Law is a human invention to keep the members of a society in a certain place and on a specific way of life that promotes cooperation and discourages violence.

Modern thinking on law reflects developments in philosophy and psychology. For example, Max Weber and others reshaped thinking on the extension of state power, such as that posed by modern military, policing, and bureaucratic organizations, to the everyday lives of ordinary citizens. Laws can also include social restrictions and punishments, such as censorship, crime, or punishments for breaking the law, which is known as breaking the law.

The law is comprised of legislative statutes and regulations duly enacted by the federal or state government, and court decisions that make up a common law system. In a common law system, the decisions of judges have broader legal weight to apply to other similar cases than a statute or regulation would. This principle is called the doctrine of precedent, or stare decisis.