The Study of Law


Law is a set of rules governing the behaviour of people and their interaction with one another. It can encompass anything from criminal laws, which deal with the punishment of people who commit offences, to labour laws, which govern how a tripartite industrial relationship should be conducted between worker, employer and trade union. There are also many other fields of law, such as environmental law, commercial laws and tax law. A legal system is an integral part of any society and it can be used to maintain order, regulate commerce and protect human rights.

The precise definition of law is a matter of debate. Some see it as a set of precepts about how a society ought to be run, others argue that it is a system of justice which provides an alternative to violence for the settlement of disputes and disagreements. In any event, the study of law is a vital area of human enquiry and raises important issues about social, political and economic structure.

It is often divided into two main areas: civil law and criminal law. The former deals with the settlement of lawsuits (disputes) between individuals and companies while the latter is concerned with the prosecution of crimes against public order or private property. In some jurisdictions, a law is made by a central legislative body, while in others it is settled through judicial decisions or, as in the common law of England, by precedent – i.e. a judge’s decision in a previous case becomes binding on subsequent courts, unless it is clearly contrary to reason or divine law.

There are different kinds of law depending on the nature of a society and the needs it has for regulating commerce, ensuring social justice, and controlling social change. A legal system may be democratic or authoritarian, centralized or decentralized, based on natural or divine law, or a combination of the above.

The study of law is a complex and fascinating subject which touches upon a wide variety of other disciplines, such as philosophy, sociology, politics and economics. It is also a source of enduring debate, for example, about whether or not judges should be allowed to use their own sense of justice when deciding cases and whether or not they should be above the influence of politics. Moreover, there is a continuing argument over how much of a role religion should play in a legal system and there are also debates about the nature of justice, for example, whether it should be blind or fair or a mixture of both. These issues are not easy to resolve and they form an important element of the subject of Law.