Law is a system of rules and regulations that governs the conduct of people within a community or society. It is often enforced by a controlling authority.
A legal system may serve many purposes, ranging from keeping peace to protecting individual rights, resolving disputes, promoting social justice and providing for orderly social change. Some legal systems work better than others in achieving these goals.
It is the basis of civil society and of most government; it also enables a political body to regulate a wide range of economic, social and cultural matters that impact people’s lives.
In most nations, laws are made and enforced by governments (called nation-states). A government can either be democratically elected or ruled by an authoritarian regime.
Modern lawyers achieve professional identity by obtaining special qualifications such as a legal degree, completing specific legal procedures, and being appointed to office by the government or a self-regulating body. Lawyers may work in a variety of public and private sectors including government, business and the nonprofit sector.
Some lawyers specialize in particular fields, such as tax law or constitutional law. A legal career is a long and rigorous process, and can involve a high level of personal responsibility.
Legal jurisprudence is an academic discipline that studies law and the ways in which it shapes human life and societies. It combines elements of both law and the social sciences, including sociology, political science and economics.
The sociological school of law commenced in the nineteenth century, and is concerned with the effect that legal systems have on the society as a whole and its individuals.
This approach sees law as a “social engineering” instrument that balances competing interests in an attempt to meet the needs of all of the citizens who live in a society.
Law is a collection of norms that prescribe how people ought to behave, based on their social, moral, economic and other purposes. These norms vary from one society to another, and are generally determined by a variety of social factors and interests.
These laws are usually based on the concept of rights, which is a common theory of the relationship between law and society. These rights include claim-rights, privilege-rights, power-rights and immunities.
Some of the theories based on these notions share common insights that a law committed to rights is oriented towards the ideal of treating the individual person as law’s primary unit of concern.
While all theories have at least some Hohfeldian features in common, each of them deploys different terms to describe the way that rights function in the law.
For instance, Hohfeld’s theories typically conflate claims with privileges and powers, which are first-order norms that determine what right-holders may do or cannot do. However, Hohfeld’s theories are not necessarily exclusive of all claim-rights; for example, some argue that the term is also used to refer to second-order norms involving rights that can be changed by a right-holder, such as immunity-rights.
Textualism, on the other hand, posits that statutes contribute to the law according to their literal meaning. This view is popular among conservative judges, who want to ensure that the written law is fairly interpreted.