Law is the rules and regulations that govern the actions of people within a particular society. It includes laws that pertain to property, civil rights, contracts and criminal matters among others. It also refers to the system of legal procedures that are used in a society to settle disputes.
The purpose of law is to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. This can be done through courts, or other types of institutions such as the police and the military.
There are many different kinds of law, including religious, moral and natural. Religion is often seen as the source of a certain form of law, especially in countries with strong religious traditions.
Whether or not religion is a legitimate basis for a legal system depends on the nature of the faith, its teachings and how the community relates to it. For example, the Quran contains some basic legal principles, and Islamic Sharia has its own set of rules.
Some people may be tempted to look at law in terms of clearly-drafted statutes that are promulgated well in advance of individual responsibility for complying with them. This is a view that may have something to offer those interested in law-making, but it is not the only way of thinking about law.
Another way of understanding the law is by considering its components and how they function together. These components include norms, claims and privileges, powers and immunities, as well as the rules of procedure that determine when, how and what law is enforceable.
Hohfeld, for instance, identifies four positions about rights, which he divides into claim-rights (that is, entitlement to some ph), privilege-rights (that is, privilege to a ph), power-rights (that is, the right of the subject to control a ph) and immunity-rights (that is, the right to avoid being harmed by ph).
Claim-rights are defined as “a specific entitlement to some ph.” The privilege-right, on the other hand, is “a privilege to do or enjoy whatever ph the right-holder wants.”
Power-rights are similar to privilege-rights in that they allow the right-holder to have a power over ph, whereas immunity-rights are similar to claims in that they determine what right-objects must do or cannot do.
These four categories of law are distinct from the norms that are considered to be the foundation of the Rule of Law, although they are not the only forms of law. In addition to the norms that are based on formal and procedural ideals, law also incorporates more substantive ideals such as liberty or respect for private property rights.
In the modern world, this distinction between norms and rights has become more blurred. In a large part, this is due to the fact that law-making and ordinary legal administration are more complex and nuanced than traditional models of the Rule of Law envisage.
This complexity and uncertainty is a reason why many people consider the Rule of Law to be an ideal that is in danger of being outdated. The challenge of the Rule of Law is in finding a balance between the need for generality, clarity, publicity, stability and prospectivity of its norms and the need to be compatible with a diverse and fractious political culture.