Law is the system of rules that governs a society and the actions of its members. It shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. Law also acts as mediator between people and the government. It is a complex topic, with multiple schools of thought.
John Austin defined law as the aggregate set of rules that a power, such as the sovereign, has determined to be binding upon its subjects. This definition is the basis of modern legal studies.
Hans Kelsen developed a different law definition, describing it as a normative science. He said that laws describe what must occur, and do not dictate how it should occur. Friedrich Karl von Savigny came up with a historical law definition, saying that the development of the law is organic and unconscious. Custom precedes and is superior to legislation, he added.
There are a variety of branches of law, with contract law covering everything from hiring a gardener to buying a car. Labour law regulates the tripartite relationship between worker, employer and trade union, while property law defines people’s rights to tangible and intangible possessions. Then there are laws governing the relationships between people and nations, such as immigration and nationality law, and family law.
In a nation, the law can serve several purposes: it can keep the peace and maintain the status quo; it can protect minorities against majorities; and it can promote social justice. Some legal systems are more successful than others in fulfilling these purposes.