Law is the system of rules that governs people’s lives. It shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways. The study of law offers a rich field for scholarly investigation in legal history, philosophy, social analysis and economics.
Law consists of written or unwritten rules that are agreed upon by a supervising authority. It can set out things such as contracts, rights and responsibilities, expectations, measures of damages in cases of breach and how conflicts are resolved. It may also define the scope of powers and duties of a party or its officers.
There are few living cultures that rely on a non-modern scientific concept of law,8 but a few do exist. One example is the Inuit People of the Arctic,9 who have a concept of law that does not divide reality into natural/human and human/non-natural/human.
The main law fields are criminal, civil and commercial law. Criminal law covers conduct that is considered harmful to society and is punishable by imprisonment or fines. Civil law deals with lawsuits (disputes) between individuals or organisations. Commercial law includes complex contract law, property laws, insurance law, bills of exchange and insolvency and bankruptcy law and traces back to the medieval Lex Mercatoria.
Other law areas include immigration and nationality laws, family law and the law of competition. The latter dates back to Roman laws against price fixing and the English restraint of trade doctrine and is used to control businesses that seek to artificially manipulate market prices.