The Nature and Purpose of Law


Law is a set of rules established and enforced by society and government to govern behavior. It is a vast field that covers everything from civil rights to taxation. There are two main types of law: civil and criminal. Civil law includes things like contract and property, while criminal laws deal with crimes. In some countries, the law is codified while in others it is more of a system of case law. It can be based on religion, custom or even just common sense.

The concept of law has changed throughout history. It was first outlined in writing by the Greek philosopher Plato. The word “law” was at that time used to describe convention or practice, but he believed it could be formalized in a way that made human life more orderly.

Modern political theory has been influenced by the ideas of Max Weber and other thinkers who have redefined how we understand the nature and purpose of law. The law is now seen as a mediator of relations between humans, and the relationship between the state and citizens has shifted to include new issues of accountability that earlier writers like Locke or Montesquieu did not anticipate.

Legal issues of our time include the extent to which the law is enforcable, whether or not it addresses social justice, and its relationship to religion, democracy, and economics. Questions of power are also central to the idea of law. Does the law allow for checks on the extension of state authority, such as a free press and democratic elections? Does the law protect people from abuses of power by the military, police or bureaucracy?

In a nation, the role of the law is to (1) keep the peace; (2) maintain social order; (3) preserve individual rights; (4) protect minorities against majorities; and (5) promote social justice. The effectiveness of a nation’s law depends on its ability to do these things well and the ability to change with the times. Nations ruled by authoritarian governments may succeed in keeping the peace and maintaining social stability, but they often oppress their own people or oppress other nations, while democracies have difficulty dealing with crises that emerge between them and other democratic nations.

The law has a very broad scope and can be broken down into many different fields, such as torts, contracts, administrative law, criminal law, property law, constitutional law, and international law. Laws are created by legislative bodies, such as a parliament or congress, and then enforced by judicial courts. In the United States, for example, a bill is sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives and then assigned to a committee for study. If released, it can be debated and voted on; the bill must receive a majority vote in both houses of the legislature to pass. Once passed, a conference committee, consisting of representatives from both the House and Senate, works out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.