Law is a system of rules created and enforced by society and the state to ensure a peaceful and orderly society. If the rules are broken, sanctions can be imposed. The precise nature of law is a matter of intense debate, with many different theories put forward. However, most agree that the law must respect individuals and their rights, promote social justice, be objective and impartial and provide a framework for democratic change.
There are many different types of laws, ranging from criminal laws which set out crimes and their penalties, to family laws which govern the legal relationships between people. The law can also relate to specific activities such as driving, which is governed by road law.
Laws are enacted by governments and other public bodies, including companies, organisations and individuals. They are then enforced by the police and other law enforcement agencies, and interpreted and applied by courts of law. The main functions of law are to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, preserve individual rights, and provide for orderly social change.
Different societies create and implement different laws, with some systems serving these purposes more effectively than others. For example, an authoritarian government may be able to keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but it can also oppress minorities and political opponents. In contrast, a democracy is more likely to promote social justice and allow for democratic change.
It is also important to remember that law cannot exist outside of human society, because it involves the concept of right and wrong behaviour. This makes it impossible to verify through empirical observation, as would be the case for a natural science (such as a law of gravity) or even a social science such as sociology.
There are a number of different types of law, covering virtually all aspects of human life. These can be grouped into three broad categories, though some subjects overlap and intertwine: