What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules and regulations, created and enforced by government to regulate the conducts of people in society. Its function is to promote peaceful existence/ uphold law and order, regulate social conflicts, facilitate individual choices, etc.

Legal Definitions

According to Black’s Law Dictionary [Garner; 2004: 900], the legal definition of law is “a rule of conduct developed by a government or society over a certain territory. It follows certain practices and customs in dealing with crime, business, social relationships, property, finance and other things”.

Depending upon the subject it deals with, a law can be classified as imperative or mandatory, prohibitory or permissive.

Generality of Law

Unlike other legal rules, a law is a rule that governs millions of similar acts rather than a named act like stealing. This makes the law less bulky and saves the legislator from making laws for millions of different actions, which might be unnecessary if a general statement is used to regulate such behaviours.

Purpose of Law

According to John Austin, the purpose of a law is “to set a common rule of life for its subjects and obliging them to obey”. Other purposes include promoting the peace and well-being of society, regulating social behavior, creating standards and providing some form of control.

The definition of law is not easy because of the multiple points of view espoused by the jurists. Some of them are:

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