Law is the set of rules that govern society and the people who live in it. It includes the laws that are drafted and passed by government, by judicial bodies and by the people themselves.
Law serves the purpose of keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo, protecting individuals against oppression by others, preserving and promoting individual rights, and fostering social justice. It also provides a basis for orderly change in the society.
There are several schools of jurisprudence. One school is formalism, which treats law as mathematics or science and logically deduces the rules that govern the outcome of a case.
Another is legal realism, which believes that judges make decisions according to their political and economic preferences, or according to the circumstances of the case. This can lead to arbitrary lines being drawn, which the realists believe are dictated by the law as opposed to the interests of the parties.
The third school is normative jurisprudence, which studies the ways that different people interpret and apply the law. It involves a wide range of topics such as criminal law, family law and administrative law.
The word law can be traced back to the Old Testament, where it is often used to refer to God’s commands and regulations in his Mosaic covenant. Other words for law are legislation, custom and tradition.