Law is the system of rules, principles and practices created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate. Jurists have a range of views about the purpose and function of law. Most consider it a means of securing justice and a vehicle for change in society.
Some systems of law shape politics, economics, history and society in a variety of ways. Others are centered on the settling of disputes between individuals. Still others are based on religious traditions, such as Shari’ah, which is the world’s most widely used religions’ legal system. There are also jurisdictions that follow civil law, which is based on codified laws and precedents created by judicial decisions.
The word law is derived from the Latin lex, which refers to a “lawful” or “orderly” process of resolving conflicts and disputes. It is also closely related to the term lege, which refers to the body of laws established by a government or community.
Law is an instrument of human control, imposing order in societies and providing a framework for resolving disagreements between individuals or groups. Some legal systems are more effective in this regard than others. For example, an authoritarian regime can keep the peace and maintain the status quo in some countries, but it may oppress minorities or opposing political parties. In contrast, a democratic country is likely to promote democracy, human rights and social change in its own borders and abroad.