What is Law?


Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is a complex concept and its precise definition has been debated for centuries. Laws may govern criminal, civil or administrative activities. They are enacted by legislative bodies that represent the interests of the public. They are enforced by police, security forces and courts of justice. They ensure that people comply with the rules of society, that disputes are resolved peacefully and that justice is served if laws are broken.

It has been argued that the Rule of Law is a fundamental requirement for a democratic state. This tradition of argument goes back to Aristotle, through medieval theorists like John Fortescue and Niccolo Machiavelli; and through the English Enlightenment in the writings of Montesquieu and Locke. More recently, Max Weber reshaped thinking about the extension of the state’s power over people’s daily lives.

Legal orders are characterized by the fact that they contain a hierarchy of norms. There is a highest norm, known as the grundnorm, which gives validity to all other laws. This allows them to be distinguished from each other and enforced against non-compliance. The legal order also includes the rules of recognition, which define how people are to be treated by the state and other entities.

Posted in: Gembing