The Concept of Law

Law is a system of rules that governs a society to ensure peace and safety by regulating the behaviour of people within it. It is enforced by a central authority to ensure that the rules are obeyed. If a person breaks the rules they may face sanctions such as fines or imprisonment. The precise nature of law is a subject of long-standing debate.

Legal systems differ, with some adopting a more formal approach to defining laws, while others take a less rigid approach. The law can be created and enforced by a group of legislators, producing statutes; by the executive, resulting in decrees and regulations; or by judges, establishing a body of precedent known as common law. Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts and agreements, including arbitration arrangements that use alternative ways to resolve disputes than standard court litigation.

Law covers a vast array of areas, from civil and criminal justice to contract law, intellectual property and land reform. For articles that examine the broader context of law, see civil society; constitution; political system; and religion; or see censorship; crime and punishment; and police.

The concept of law is a vital one for modern societies. For example, it regulates contracts between people and the way they exchange goods and services, which includes everything from buying a bus ticket to trading shares on the stock market. It also defines the rights and duties of property owners, whether they own real property (sometimes called’real estate’), or personal property such as computers, jewellery and cars.

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