Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is a field of study with numerous branches. Generally, it can be divided into three broad categories. Criminal law deals with conduct considered harmful to social order, for example stealing, and the punishments imposed (jail time or fine). Civil law covers the resolution of lawsuits (disputes) between citizens, typically concerning property, contracts and personal injuries. Administrative law is a broad category that includes laws that affect government agencies, such as those governing immigration and labour. Space law is a recent branch that covers the regulations governing human activities in orbit and outer space, including space commercialisation. Banking and financial law is another branch that sets standards for the amount of capital banks must hold, along with other rules regulating investment.
A legal system’s laws are often influenced by a country’s culture, religion and history, along with the political and economic environment in which it operates. It is a source of scholarly inquiry, generating debates in areas such as legal philosophy, legal history and sociology.
The study of law involves exploring the deeper dimensions of what is at the core of this discipline: a complex system of norms, each with its own distinctive features and implications. In this regard, it is different from empirical science (as in the case of the law of gravity) and other disciplines such as social science and even economics. The law has a normative character: it stipulates how people ought to behave and what they may or cannot require of others. It also specifies what is permissible and impermissible, in terms of what is claim-able (privilege-right) or power-able (power-right).
The subject of law is enormously broad and stretches into virtually every aspect of the human experience. The main divisions are listed below, but many of these subjects intertwine and overlap. Labour law, for example, encompasses the tripartite industrial relationship between employer and worker, as well as trade unions and individual employment rights. Evidence law addresses what materials are admissible in court to build a case, while criminal procedure and civil procedure address the procedures courts must follow as trials and appeals proceed. Law is also a vast field of scholarship, which can be found in a variety of fields such as history, philosophy, politics and economics. Law is a vital part of a society and has many important functions, such as maintaining the status quo, resolving disputes and promoting justice. A successful law system must be able to balance these concerns, and some systems serve these purposes better than others. It is for this reason that the laws of a nation should always be reviewed and changed to keep up with social change. The law can be used as a tool for oppression as much as for liberation, and this is one of the reasons it is so difficult to abolish. This is why there is a constant struggle between the democratic and authoritarian elements of law in societies around the world.