The Study of Law

Law is a set of rules enforced by government that regulate behaviour, protect rights and punish wrongdoing. It can be created and enforced by the state through legislation, decrees or executive orders, or by private individuals and organisations through legal contracts and arbitration agreements. The precise nature of law is a matter of contention, but its core functions are to ensure peace, maintain the status quo and promote social change in a stable way. Different nations have different political landscapes, and thus their laws vary widely. For example, some countries have a centralized authority which makes and enforces law at the national level, while others have decentralized administrative agencies with powers similar to those of a legislature.

In the United States, federal law is largely made and enforced at the national level by the legislative branch, which produces statutes. Other countries employ a common law system, which relies on judicial decisions compiled into case law. These bind lower courts to ensure consistency and adherence to the principle of stare decisis.

While laws can be created and enforced by the state, some people believe that they are also a result of natural law, which reflects the principles that govern human behaviour, and that these are unchanging over time. Philosophers like Jeremy Bentham adopted the utilitarian view of law, which considers its primary purpose to be the orderly administration of power, and which incorporates the principle that there is a right to self-preservation and to property.

The study of law includes areas such as criminal law, civil law, constitutional law, family law and labor law. Labour law involves the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union, and focuses on the right to strike, minimum wage, health and safety and other workplace rights. Family law focuses on marriage and divorce, child custody, parenting agreements and the rights of children in family court cases. Constitutional law deals with the relationships between a nation’s executive, legislature and judiciary branches, as well as the individual rights guaranteed by a constitution or bill of rights. The study of law can also include topics such as the history of legal systems, international law and canon law.