The Concept of Law


Law is a set of rules that creates a framework to ensure a peaceful society and if the rules are broken sanctions can be imposed. Laws are enacted by governments to control and shape behaviour, impose order, and protect individual rights. These laws can be enforced through a variety of mechanisms, including police and the military.

The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in a multitude of ways. Some laws may be state-enforced through a legislative process, resulting in statutes, or by executive decrees and regulations, as well as by judge-made precedent (common law jurisdictions). Private individuals can also create legally binding contracts that are enforceable under certain conditions (contracts law).

A key aspect of law is whether or not it is fair. This includes whether people of the same social class are treated the same and if core human, procedural and property rights are protected. It also encompasses whether or not checks and balances on government power exist, such as a free press and democratic processes for transition of power.

The concept of law is complex and a vast number of books have been written about it. Many people have different ideas about what the law is and how it should be interpreted and enforced. One of the most widely discussed is Holmes’ ontological definition of the law, which sees the law as a probabilistic immanent structure. This is a model that requires that the observer participate in the experience of the world, and as that experience flows through her, she reassesses the probability of the outcomes she can expect to happen, thus creating law.