Law is the body of rules that regulates a person’s behavior and that are enforceable through legal authority. It includes the laws of a state and its various courts.
Law has many different meanings in a variety of contexts and is used for a range of purposes, from creating legal rights to defining the rules for governing a company. The precise definition of law is a matter of longstanding debate, but it usually includes several key features.
The word “law” comes from the Latin term lex lege, which means ‘laws’ or ‘rules of conduct.’
There are several theories of the nature of law: some argue that it is a social tool that serves societal needs; others claim that it is coercive and acts as a tool of social control; still others see it as a tool for the pursuit of ethics and morality.
Some philosophers believe that law is a science rather than an art, and that its aims are clear and indisputable. This theory is referred to as ‘pure’ law.
Another theory is that law is a tool of social control, where the conflicting pulls of political philosophy, economic interests and ethical values constantly struggle for recognition against a background of history, tradition and legal technique.
A third theory is that it is a tool for the pursuit of justice, which consists in ensuring that all people are treated fairly and with dignity, regardless of their status.
The third theory is often referred to as a ‘demand’ theory of law, and it holds that legal rights are based on the capacity or power of their holders to demand certain actions from others (Feinberg 1970; 1980: 130-158; 1992: 155; Darwall 2006).
One of the most prominent advocates of this theory is Joel Feinberg.
In his book, Law and Social Control, he argued that the law is a tool for pursuing social needs. It is a means for imposing disciplinary and regulatory policies on the population, which are designed to serve their wants and improve their lives.
This theory is largely accepted in modern society, though it has its detractors. Some criticize it because it does not allow for the consideration of other social, economic, or moral factors that could affect a legal determination’s validity or application.
Other opponents of this theory argue that it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of law in a democratic society. They also say that it is not a logically consistent approach to law, as a legal system must be made up of both formal and informal rules.
While the ‘pure’ theory of law is a useful way to understand some of the major concepts of law, it can be difficult to apply it in practice as well.
Alternatively, a theory of law that emphasises the role of custom in legal processes and outcomes is gaining some support among scholars. This view is based on the idea that law must be rooted in the common consciousness of a community.