Law is an indisputable fact about the way the world works and the forces that act on it. This makes it possible to predict what will happen, and thus plan for the future. It also means that society can function smoothly and with order. For example, it is against the law to play loud music late at night.
There are many different branches of law, and these intertwine and overlap. A few examples: contract law, which regulates agreements to exchange goods and services; property law, which defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible and intangible property; and criminal and civil procedure, the rules that must be followed as a trial or appeal is held.
The principle that governs the main function of law is known as the rule of law. This refers to the requirement that all laws must be publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated. It also requires adherence to international human rights standards and norms. This can only be achieved if all those who participate in the making and application of law are accountable to it.
Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It also serves as a medium for relations between people. The main purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Law is a key component of governance, and a lack of legal stability or the presence of unjust laws can lead to revolutions and rebellions.
It is difficult to imagine a society without laws. Most societies have some form of law to control the behaviour of its members, and this helps them live peacefully and prosperously. The exact nature of law varies from place to place. In some places, there is a legislative body that codifies and consolidates the law. In others, the law is based on judge-made precedent. Religious laws also have a role, and Sharia law is used in some countries.
A common feature of law is that it must be objective in the sense that it does not discriminate between rich and poor. However, there is a gap between this idea of law and the reality of it. The rich and the poor have very different experiences with the law, as illustrated by stories of racial profiling and the failure of the judicial system to adequately represent them.
The law is a complex field from a methodological point of view, because it is both a science and an art. This has been reflected in its various names: the study of the law is called Jurisprudence, and lawyers are often referred to as Esquires or Barristers, although there are many other titles that have been used to signify their status within the legal profession. The study of law can be applied to many disciplines, and has been the subject of a wide range of theories and debates. In the modern world, it is increasingly being combined with other social sciences and areas of applied research, such as management and anthropology.