Law is a system of rules that governs the behaviour of individuals and communities. Its main goal is to prevent people from breaking laws, but it also protects basic human rights and freedoms.
The legal system of a country is a set of standards that everyone must follow in order to live in that society. If someone violates the law, they can be arrested and brought to court. They may also be fined or jailed.
There are four primary purposes that law serves: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
Defining and analyzing law is a complex discipline. Its unique characteristics make it a distinctive field of study. It is not only a normative discipline, but it is also prescriptive and lacks any description of the world and its forces, a characteristic that distinguishes it from empirical science or even social science.
It is an important factor in determining politics, economics and history as well as the structure of societies. It also plays an essential role in resolving conflicts, both between individuals and within groups.
A legal system is divided into civil and common law systems, each of which varies in its own way. Generally, civil law jurisdictions codify and consolidate their laws, while common law systems accept judge-made precedent as law on equal footing with legislative statutes.
Common law courts have a strong tradition of rule of law, known as stare decisis (Latin for “to stand by” or “to hold fast to”). The doctrine ensures that decisions by higher courts bind lower courts and future decisions by the same court.
This practice has evolved over the centuries to create a body of law that is based on solid principles. It is sometimes criticized as being rigid and inflexible, but over time it has developed into a robust body of rules.
The system of law in a given country may have been influenced by its history, connections with other countries or its adherence to international standards. It is often classified into civil law or common law systems, depending on its sources.
One of the most important features of law is its asymmetrical relationship to human psychology. It can impose precepts of conduct on human beings that are not attainable in the physical environment, as well as not allowing them to be required by others, as is the case in some religious traditions.
Another feature of law is its retro-activity, which affects the legal relations that already existed before the introduction of a new rule. This occurs when a norm is derogated by a subsequent rule, which can negatively affect or even destroy the vested rights and considerations that were established under the original norm.
Other features of law include its relationship to the sociology of human behavior, as well as to political structures and social policies. For example, it is important to understand how law influences the way in which citizens organize their communities, how they treat others and how they view themselves as members of a community.