What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society and help people do business with each other. It includes protection of property, rights and freedoms. Courts or police enforce the law by punishing those who break it. A legal system usually has a high level of transparency and accessibility. It is often based on democracy and the rule of law.

Whether it is a statute or an ordinance, each legal document has its own set of meanings which are determined by the specific language used and the context in which the words are used. Some laws are written in very general terms, to cover many situations, but even these have limits and require interpretation. A judge interpreting law must look at the wider context of how the legislation could be applied, as well as evaluating what other judges have said about the same situation in the past. This is called case analysis.

Some legal philosophers have developed different ideas about what constitutes the law. Hans Kelsen, for example, created the ‘pure theory of law’ which states that laws are a ‘normative science’.

Others believe that the law is a social construct, created by society itself and subject to change as the society changes. This approach to the law is based on a community narrative that says that rich and poor are equal and everyone has rights. The story of law and society has a much deeper dimension, however, than the story that we tell ourselves about it.