Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is often seen as a way of maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights, although its precise definition has been the subject of longstanding debate. The scope of the law is vast; however, it can be broadly divided into four subjects.
Firstly, there is the law of human nature, which encompasses principles that govern how people behave and which can be used to shape and inform the laws that regulate them. Secondly, there is the law of property, which outlines ownership and the rights attached to it. Thirdly, there is the law of the workplace, which is concerned with the relationships between workers, employers and trade unions; as well as employment regulations, including the right to strike. Lastly, there is the law of justice, which concerns how courts operate and what materials are admissible in their trials and appeals.
These subjects are broad and the topics that they cover overlap and intersect in many ways, but a few general characteristics of law can be drawn. In most jurisdictions, the law is a complex and highly politicized affair, with competing interests, political pressures and public opinion all contributing to the development and interpretation of law. In addition, law is not a single discipline and encompasses a wide variety of disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and political science.
In addition to regulating behavior, the law can also have a positive effect on society, for example through the protection of individual liberties and private property. It can also have a negative impact, for example through the imposition of censorship or criminal punishment.
The precise nature of the law is highly contested, with debates on legal philosophy and theory playing a major role in shaping the law. For example, Max Weber and others reshaped thinking on the extent to which state power should be extended beyond policing and other civil functions into the daily lives of citizens.
Ultimately, the law is what is deemed acceptable and legitimate by the society in which it operates. As a result, it varies from culture to culture and the concept of what constitutes the law can differ significantly between societies. However, a common feature of the law is that it seeks to balance competing interests and provide an even playing field for all citizens. This principle has been enshrined in a number of international treaties and conventions.