What Is Law?


Law shapes politics, history, economy and society in many different ways. It is a complex subject, involving a wide range of subjects, from philosophy of law (see legal philosophy) to laws regarding international relations and even the universe, such as the laws of gravity. It can also encompass the rules of criminal procedure, or civil rights and freedoms such as free speech and religious practice. It is often a topic of dispute and debate, and has been the subject of much discussion by writers such as Locke, Rousseau and Montesquieu, with later writers reshaping thinking on state accountability.

A general distinction can be made between jurisdictions that follow civil law, where a legislature codifies and consolidates their laws, and common law systems, where judge-made precedent is accepted as binding law. A third type of law is religious, such as Jewish Halakha or Islamic Shari’ah, and Christian canon law.

Other areas of law include air and space law, which cover human activities in space, banking law and financial regulation, which establish standards for the amount of capital banks must hold, and tax laws, which set rates of tax on commercial transactions and property. Medical jurisprudence addresses questions concerning the treatment and diagnosis of disease, injury or death, and labour law covers issues such as working hours, wages and the organisation of businesses.

Other parts of the legal system include administrative law, which covers government functions such as regulating air, water and electricity, and corporate law, which deals with business regulations, mergers and acquisitions, contracts and partnerships. Disputes between individuals are settled by civil court proceedings, such as a car accident or defamation case.

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