Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior.
Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice.
Often considered a political institution, law can be divided into a number of overlapping subjects. These include the common law, civil law and Islamic law.
Law can also be divided into three basic categories: judicial, regulatory and administrative. The judicial branch of the government has the power to make and enforce laws, while regulation deals with the provision of public services.
The governmental authority that creates and enforces laws can be at the local, state, national or international level. It is generally a democratic government that tries to serve the people through laws, as opposed to an authoritarian government, which may try to control its citizens.
Legal systems vary from nation to nation and are based on many factors. Some, such as the United States, have a written constitution that sets out a set of rules. Others, such as India, have an ancient system of customary law that combines elements of the Roman and Greek legal traditions.
A Legal Institution:
A legal institution is an organized group of individuals who are bound by a certain system of rules that guide their actions. These rules can range from legal norms to specific procedures for resolving disputes.
Examples of a legal institution are courts, police, prisons and the military. These structures are staffed by trained individuals who have the responsibility to uphold the rules that govern their jurisdiction.
The word law itself derives from the Latin term lege, which means “a rule or obligation.” A law is an imposition by a sovereign on those who are subject to it, and an obligation to obey it.
Another important definition of law is that it is the aggregate set of rules, established by a person as politically superior or sovereign over men, that is to be followed by those who are considered to be subjects.
In utilitarian theory, a law is a command from a sovereign to those who are considered to be subjects, backed by a threat of punishment if they break it. Natural law, on the other hand, considers law to be a reflection of essentially moral and unchangeable laws of nature that apply to all humans regardless of their status.
Several approaches to the study of law have emerged over the years, with some taking a sociological approach that views law as an expression of social progress, rather than the product of direct legislation or the outcome of professional opinion.
The idea of natural law has had its roots in ancient philosophy and is a key part of the jurisprudence of Thomas Aquinas. However, it was Jeremy Bentham who introduced the concept of the rule of law into Western culture through his work on the Theory of Moral Sentiments and subsequently in The Treatise of Law.