What Is Law?

Law is a set of rules that creates a framework for ensuring a peaceful society, and provides guidelines to resolve conflicts. It is enforced by a state and, if broken or breached, can result in punishments. Law is an important topic for students as it shapes politics, economics and history in many ways and raises profound issues of fairness and justice.

Legal systems differ widely but broadly speaking they can be divided into civil law jurisdictions (in which legislatures codify and consolidate laws), and common law systems, in which judge-made precedent is binding. Other aspects of law include property law, which deals with ownership and title; criminal law, which deals with conduct deemed harmful to social order and may be punishable; family law, which encompasses marriage and divorce; and labour law, which covers the tripartite industrial relationship between workers, employers and trade unions.

In addition, there are some areas of law that are purely regulatory or that cover matters deemed of social importance. Examples include space law, which concerns international treaties and laws concerning human activities in outer space; banking law, which covers regulations about the minimum amount of capital that banks must hold; and tax law, which addresses monetary policy and other financial regulation. Other regulatory areas include environmental law, food safety, pharmaceuticals and other health care regulations; and consumer protection. Religious law plays an important part in some societies, and can be seen in Jewish Halakha, Islamic Shari’ah and Christian canon law.

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