The Nature of Law


Law shapes politics, economics and history in a variety of ways and serves as a mediator between people. The field covers a great diversity of issues, from the regulating of private industry (eg, energy, water and telecoms) to the resolution of civil lawsuits. It is also a source of rich and complex debates about justice, equality and fairness.

The law is defined by a particular country’s political-legal structure, which differs widely from nation to nation. It is often the case that the laws of a society are determined by those who command military or political power, with the laws made and enforced largely by those in charge. Throughout history, there have been revolutions against existing laws and aspirations for greater legal rights for citizens.

In many countries today, the law is based on a system of codification and consolidation developed by professional jurists. These systems are found on all continents and cover around 60% of the world’s population. Civil law systems use concepts, categories and rules mainly derived from Roman and Germanic law with varying influences from local custom and culture.

Nevertheless, some nations have legal systems that are based on religious precepts or precedent. These include Judaism, which has a well-developed system of laws and jurisprudence called the Halakha, Islam with its Shariah law or Christianity with its canon law. The nature of the law is an important subject for philosophical inquiry, with some philosophers, particularly in the 17th century, arguing that the existence of the law depends on and contributes to answers to fundamental questions about human action and intention, social practices and values, the justification of political rule and the relationships between these elements.

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