What is Law?

Law is the body of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Legal scholars have developed a variety of theories to explain how and why law works as it does. One of the most important issues in this area is that of method. Which methods are appropriate for legal interpretation depends on what the interpreter seeks; a method might be fine if one is seeking the linguistic meaning of a text, but inadequate if the aim is to find the best resolution of a dispute.

Another important issue concerns the nature of law and judicial authority. Some legal studies have argued that the modern judicial system has become too bureaucratic and professionalized; that judges are too removed from the real world and are thus unable to understand the social problems that they must resolve; and that courts should not be allowed to make law, but only to adjudicate disputes between private parties.

Other scholars have emphasized the need for a deeper understanding of the origin and evolution of law. They have stressed the role of political and military power in shaping law, and have analyzed how political instability can undermine the basic functions of law. They have also studied the ways in which a country’s culture, values and history can influence the development of its laws.

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