Law is a body of rules governing a society’s behavior, with specific legal rules addressing the treatment of individuals and property. It is a social institution that has many functions, including the regulation of commerce, the protection of human rights, and the administration of justice. The discipline of law includes the study of a variety of societal issues, and legal historians have traditionally studied laws as historical artifacts.
Some scholars of law have viewed legal rights as reflecting natural moral rights that do not depend on either enforcement or social convention, and such rights are often associated with deontological principles eschewing considerations of utility and policy. Bentham, however, rebuffed the transplanting of natural rights into law as “mischievous nonsense” (Bentham 1843b: 501).
In law, rights are usually defined as normative positions and relations. Hohfeldian positions determine what the relevant parties ought to do (claim-rights), may do (privilege-rights), and can do (power-rights) while immunities establish what the right-holders cannot do (immunity-rights). Rights that are actively exercised typically impose duties on the right-holders to act while rights enjoyed passively entitle them to action.
Laws vary in their structure, and some of them are subject to change. For example, the legal structure of a company may be altered in bankruptcy proceedings. In such cases, a court can implement a mechanism called senior dilution to ensure that the shareholders who receive reorganized stock have enough ownership equity in the company to protect their interests.