Law is a collection of rules that governs behaviour in society. It is a subject of study in fields such as legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. Almost all theorists agree that law is a means to an end: the securing of social justice.
Generally, laws can be described in terms of their scope and the manner in which they are created. Commonly, laws will specify certain categories of activities that are acceptable or not. Then they will set out penalties for people who engage in those activities. The law may also define who is eligible to receive benefits or protection from the state. For example, employment law will cover the rights of workers to their jobs and a worker’s entitlement to compensation if they suffer injury or death at work.
The fact that laws are enforceable and that they can be created and enforced is a function of political power. This is why it is important to understand the political landscape of a country before one can begin to understand its laws. Inevitably, revolts against existing political-legal authority are a part of the human experience and the formation of laws.
As such, it is impossible to empirically prove the contents of any given law. The strength of the force of gravity between two objects, for example, can be measured in a laboratory, but its effect on an apple and a planet is still entirely dependent upon circumstance. It is a similar case with law; no amount of legislative body determination can make a universally applicable set of precepts, because they are entirely contingent on human existence and the functioning of the mind.
While laws are largely imposed by the ruling class of a nation-state, they can be amended and modified by the citizenry through referendums. This gives citizens a degree of ownership over the law, and this is an essential feature that is considered part of democracy. It also mitigates the asymmetry of political power between ruler and ruled, which is a central theme in Max Weber’s writings on modern state development.
In addition to its political basis, the law is also an instrument of economic engineering. Its function is to harmonize conflicting values in the society and help to achieve social stability and equilibrium. This is an approach that is popular in many countries, but it has also been criticized for failing to take into account the complexities of the real world and the varying needs and desires of people.
The various branches of the law are extremely complex, and it can be difficult to categorize them. International law is an increasingly important field that focuses on the rights of people who do not live in a national-state that is a signatory to treaties and international agreements. Space law is a relatively new branch of international law, and it concerns activities that take place in Earth orbit or outer space. Tax law and banking law are important areas of domestic and international law that deal with taxes, financial regulation and the safety and security of money.