Law is a set of rules which bind people together as a community. It is a cultural achievement of humankind and is meant to prevent or overcome social conflicts.
Various theories of law exist. Some of them are based on a philosophical approach (normativism) while others are rooted in realism.
Normativism is based on the idea that the laws of society are determined by norm parameters. They do not merely regulate the conduct of individuals but also serve as an orientation for the members of the society.
Realism, on the other hand, assumes that law is a living phenomenon and is not a mere result of norm parameters. The regulating function of law is achieved through the enforcement of sanctions by authorities when people fail to comply with the community’s expectations.
Many people have a very positive view of law. They see it as a set of principles for good behavior which is considered to be right and important by the majority of people for moral, religious, or emotional reasons.
Historically, however, there has been a growing tendency to consider law as an impersonal, objective entity that has no personal or social ties. This view has become popular in the West during the 19th century, especially following the writings of Jeremy Bentham.
A second defining characteristic of law is its centrality to politics and to social institutions, including the economy. This is evident in the relationship between law and religion, in the concept of ‘law-making’ by governments, and in the way laws are used to enforce political agendas.
Law is also influenced by social values and beliefs, which can be traced back to the founding of nations. For example, in early societies, law often incorporated customs and religious precepts, such as in Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia.
As society develops, the underlying principles and goals of law change. This is particularly true for societies which undergo transitions between prestate and statehood.
For instance, in prestate societies, law is mostly a means of self-help to solve conflicts. If this does not work, physical force is usually applied. In modern societies, on the other hand, law provides for judicial proceedings and provides for a more differentiated system of institutions.
Moreover, as the number of people increases, it becomes necessary to adapt and accommodate these groups in order to maintain harmony. This can be done by the establishment of new legal rules, such as those governing relations between people and between nations.
Another important aspect of law is its legitimacy, which can be seen in the way that the rules are enforced and how they differ from one society to another. This can be due to the differences in history, culture, and ethnicity of each society.
Generally, there are four types of legal rights: claims, privileges, powers, and immunity. These rights are categorized according to whether they are active or passive, namely whether they determine the activity of parties (claim-rights), the capacity of a party to do something else (privilege-rights), the power of a party to perform or avoid certain activities (power-rights), or the immunity of a party from doing something else (immunity-rights).