Law is a body of rules that is enforced by a controlling authority and governs a society’s activities, relationships and conduct. The precise definition of law is a matter of debate and it has been described as a science, an art, a social control system, and a moral imperative. The study of law covers a variety of disciplines and professions, including legal history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis. Law is a source of complex issues concerning justice, fairness and equality. The legal system is also a key political institution in any society and is the subject of various controversies and debates, see censorship; crime and punishment; court; civil war; military law; and police.
Law encompasses many different areas of human activity, ranging from the regulation of businesses to the protection of personal privacy. Generally speaking, laws are created by government bodies and enforced by the courts. They set a standard that everyone must follow, and punish those who fail to do so.
The law can be divided into three broad areas: criminal law, civil law and constitutional law. Criminal law is the area that deals with violations of social norms and the punishment for them. Civil law is the area that deals with the resolution of disputes between citizens or private parties. Constitutional law is the field that deals with the governing principles and structures of a state or country.
There are many different types of law, and each is shaped by its culture, society and history. For example, Islamic law (Shariah) is based on the Koran and hadiths, while civil law is found throughout Europe and is influenced by Roman law and canon law.
The different branches of law cover many facets of society, such as contract law, which regulates agreements between people that exchange goods or services; property law, which defines the rights and duties toward tangible items (such as buildings or cars) and intangible ones, such as bank accounts and stock shares; and competition law, which seeks to control companies that attempt to manipulate market prices by using their financial power.
The law is important in everyday life because it protects individuals and communities, maintains order, and ensures the safety of all citizens. It also provides a foundation for the study of human behaviour and is a source of philosophical debates, such as about ethics, epistemology and sociology. Regardless of its many areas of application, it remains a central pillar in any society and is constantly being debated and amended to reflect changes in the world around us. For example, the introduction of electronic communications and the internet has radically changed the way in which legal systems function. These developments have given rise to new fields of law, such as cyberlaw and data protection. However, despite these new challenges, the core of law is unchanged: a system of rules that sets standards for all and imposes punishments for those who transgress them. This is the law that underpins the modern internet.