Law is a set of rules created by the state which forms a framework to ensure a peaceful society. If these rules are broken then sanctions can be imposed. Laws can be classified into different categories such as criminal, civil and administrative. The study of law is an area of academic interest which can be found in the fields of legal history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis.
There are many different theories of law and each one has its own unique characteristics. From a philosophical viewpoint the most important feature of law is that it is a normative social phenomenon which claims to guide human behaviour by providing reasons for action. It is this aspect of the nature of law that makes it so complex from a methodological point of view.
The concept of law has been the subject of numerous books and debates with a wide variety of opinions expressed. It is impossible to give a definitive definition of the law as this depends on the legal system and individuals. However, there are some common features of the law that can be recognised.
It is a complex phenomenon which encompasses both the practical and the ethical, and it serves both coercive and utilitarian purposes. It can be used to protect the interests of a particular group, such as minorities or businesses, or it can be used to control social change, for example by maintaining an authoritarian regime within a nation. In some cases, law can also provide benefits to a society as a whole such as providing services or regulating industry.
While the law can be seen in the context of a social structure it is also an integral part of the individual. A person’s attitude towards the law and their beliefs about what the law should be reflect the individual’s values. The concept of morality is often incorporated into the law and this can be seen in the laws regarding murder, theft and fraud.
The law is a large and diverse field which can be divided into three main categories. The public law category concerns government and society and includes constitutional law, criminal law and administrative law. The private law category deals with disputes between individual and/or organisations and includes contract law, property law and torts/delicts law. Other areas of the law include intellectual property, labour and family law. In addition, there is a growing field of law covering the regulation of industries such as water, energy and telecommunications.