The Meaning and Purpose of Law


Law is a term commonly used to describe the rules and principles that govern a society. Whether the law is written or not, it represents a set of guidelines that people must follow to stay within the boundaries of what is considered morally right and wrong. Some of these laws are formalized, whereas others are more informal. In some cases, people may even decide their own laws, or be a law unto themselves, which can be dangerous and lead to criminal charges.

The word “law” is also often used to refer to a person’s legal career or the practice of law. Zola had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer and worked hard to achieve her goal. However, some believe the profession is more vulnerable to economic shifts than other industries, and this was proven during the Great Recession when many firms reduced hiring or laid off staff.

Jurists have debated about the meaning and purpose of law, but most agree that it is an instrument for securing social justice. The concept of law has changed over time, with new ideas influencing how it is interpreted and applied.

Some theorists define law as a system of rules that binds citizens by specifying what is permitted and prohibited. Other theorists define law as a means to an end, and argue that the purpose of law is to protect and promote the interests of its citizens.

Other theorists define law in more general terms, describing it as the “order of society” or “the system of social control.” These theories are usually based on the idea that a just society requires law to maintain order and ensure justice.

A more functional definition of law, influenced by the work of Joel Feinberg and Stephen Darwall, emphasizes that rights are a natural product of a legal system that provides for duties to be respected and safeguarded. Feinberg and Darwall argue that rights function as claim-rights, and that these claims require correlative duties owed by the public to individual beneficiaries.

For example, the “law” that states that anything thrown up, unsuspended in space, must come down, is a law because it expresses an imposed consistent reality. When this reality ceases to be consistent, the enactment is no longer a law but a fact.

Another important consideration in defining law is that it must be enforceable. For example, the “law” that states a person who commits murder will be killed is an enforceable law because the consequences of breaking this law are clear and obvious to all. This feature of enforceable law is important to the legitimacy of a legal system. Without it, the system of law could be corrupted by the whims of individuals and groups. In addition, a legal system that relies on subjective judgments can be inflexible to changing social conditions and insensitive to the needs of its citizens. This would undermine the authority and effectiveness of the law. A well-functioning legal system therefore relies on enforceable rules rooted in historical precedent, inferred structural rules (power relationships between institutions, for instance), and judges’ independent, present-day moral reasoning.