The Nature of Law

The Nature of Law

Law is a set of rules created by government that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. When the laws are broken, they can be enforced through mechanisms such as penalties. Law can also be described as the legal field or the work of lawyers.

The nature of law varies widely between nations and cultures, reflecting the vastly different political landscapes in which it exists. However, some generalized functions are often identified: to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, preserve individual rights, promote social justice, and provide for orderly social change. Many governments fail to meet these functions, and some are able to do so more successfully than others.

Legal philosophy and theology are complex and overlapping, with many schools of thought competing to define law and its purpose. Legal positivists, for example, argue that the law is simply a tool for social control and is designed to serve specific purposes in a particular society. This approach is often based on utilitarian thinking, where the primary goal of law is to satisfy the social wants and needs of a society.

A more critical and challenging view is that of legal realism. This school of thought argues that the law is only as effective as the power in the hands of those who are enforcing it. This view considers the fact that laws, even those considered “bad” or arbitrary, are still followed by those who have the power to enforce them. Examples of this phenomenon are the Nazis’ mass murder of six million Jews during World War II and Saddam Hussein’s routine torture of political opponents in Iraq.

Some legal philosophers, such as Hans Kelsen, advocate a theory of law that goes beyond the strict application of the written words in a given statute. This theory includes the spirit of the law, and explains how a rule may be applied and interpreted in various contexts. For example, a rule governing the carriage of goods by air may apply differently in a city than it does in a rural area.

Other scholars, such as Roscoe Pound, believe that the law is more than simply a set of rules that govern human behavior. The law also includes the social and economic interests that have been negotiated and incorporated into legislation and judicial decision-making. This is a more holistic view of the law, and one that attempts to incorporate the idea of morality into the concept of law.