Law is a complex subject that shapes politics, economics, history and society. It is a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology, and raises important issues concerning equality, fairness and justice.
It is generally accepted that laws are made and enforced by those in power. This is the fundamental basis of democracy and the rule of law, although some governments are more effective in performing these functions than others. For example, authoritarian regimes may keep the peace and maintain the status quo, but they often oppress minorities or interfere with social change. In contrast, democratic and constitutional countries generally do better in maintaining law and order and protecting the rights of citizens.
Unlike empirical scientific laws such as the law of gravity, or laws in other disciplines such as physics or biology, there is no possibility of empirically verifying the content of legal laws, despite their profound effect on human lives. This makes the study of law more philosophical and abstract than other sciences, and raises interesting questions about such topics as morality, metaphysics and ethics.
The study of law encompasses a wide range of disciplines including criminology, criminal justice, international relations, political science and sociology. It is also a major focus of academic research and is an important part of the curriculum of many universities.
In addition to the traditional fields of law, there are also a number of new and emerging areas, such as space law (concerning human activities in outer space), competition law (regulating anti-competitive business practices) and tax law (regulating corporate and personal income taxes).
The law is generally divided into civil law and criminal law. Civil law deals with the resolution of disputes between individuals and businesses, whereas criminal law governs conduct that is considered harmful to social order. Typically, courts in civil law jurisdictions use statutes to determine the law that applies in a case, whereas in criminal cases, judges decide the legal issue by using precedent (the court’s past decisions on similar cases). Those who are called lawyers specialize in the practice of law and are usually involved in litigation. The law is so complex that there are numerous sub-fields, such as family, bankruptcy, maritime and commercial transaction law. Law is also a popular topic for discussion and debate in the media and in everyday conversation. For example, people may talk about “killin’ it in law school” or about “being a lawyer.” These uses reflect the central role of law in our society. The law is often used in slang as well, such as “the law” or “all the lawyers.” This usage is generally not considered offensive, but it does highlight the fact that the law can be changed and shaped by those who are in power. This is a major reason why some people have a fascination with the law and consider careers in it.