The Study of Law

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Law is a set of rules and procedures that governs human activities in a given society. It has many dimensions and a variety of purposes, but four principal ones are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. The study of law involves an examination of these deeper aspects and the relationships between them.

The law has a complex structure, involving the interplay between common law, constitutional law, statutory law and regulatory law. The term “law” may refer to the legal system itself, or a specific area of it such as tort law (claims for damages when someone is injured by someone else’s negligence) or criminal law (prosecution of crimes).

Some laws are written, but others are unwritten and based on customs and traditions of a group or community. These are called traditional law. Laws that are written and formally adopted by the legislature are called civil law.

The study of law includes consideration of the nature of a legal system and its relationship to the political structure of a nation. A key question is the extent to which a legal system reflects a moral philosophy, such as utilitarian arguments by philosophers like John Austin or Jean Jacques Rousseau’s concept of natural law. A related issue is the extent to which a modern nation, with its vast military and bureaucratic powers, can be held accountable for its actions by the institutions and communities that comprise its civil society.