Law is the set of rules, enforceable by social or governmental institutions, that govern human relationships. It shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. In a nation it may serve to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice or allow for orderly social change. Law may also define the limits of human freedom. It is usually divided into civil and criminal law.
The main areas of civil law are contract law, tort law (those cases where someone else’s property or person is damaged, such as in car accidents or defamation), and family law, which deals with divorce proceedings, children’s rights and the division of assets. Criminal law is concerned with conduct that is deemed harmful to the community and that can be punished by imprisonment.
There are also international and European law, such as immigration and nationality law, which deal with the right to live in a nation-state that is not your own and the process of acquiring or losing citizenship. Competition law, for example, seeks to control businesses that manipulate the market by setting prices or engaging in other forms of monopoly.
The word “law” can also refer to a religious law, such as the Bible, which sets out God’s commands on morality and human behavior. Such laws have the force and dignity of natural law, which derives much of its authority from principles of right reason, a view of the nature of man, and divine revelation.