Law is the system of rules that a society or government develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It is also used to refer to the people who work in this system, such as lawyers and judges.
The word law is from the Greek nomos, meaning “rule” or “law.” It is derived from a combination of the Latin precept and the Old French word légal, which means “to be legal.” In English, the word law has many different uses, including criminal law, civil law, and international law.
There are numerous types of laws in a society, and they all have their own purposes. Some, such as property law, define rights and duties to tangible items of property, while others, such as contract law, provide power for people to make contracts.
Other branches of law include criminal law, which deals with crimes against the society itself and is typically enacted by governments; and civil law, which defines rights and duties to individuals, businesses, and organizations. These fields of law are governed by courts, which are made up of a panel of judges.
Various theories of law exist, and all share the common insight that a legal system committed to rights is oriented towards the ideal of treating the individual person as law’s primary unit of concern.
Some examples of such theories are the Will Theory and the Hohfeldian Positions (Lyons 1970; Sumner 1987).
The Will Theory suggests that rights entitle right-holders to some measure of normative control over themselves or others. It functions to make them small-scale sovereigns over certain domains, exercising a Hohfeldian power over the duties owed to them by others (Hart 1982: 183; 1983: 35).
Another theory is the Will-Person Theory, which claims that rights enable right-holders to exercise as a matter of choice the duties they are obligated to fulfill. This theory explains the importance of privileges and powers, which function to provide right-holders with options on how they may choose to act or to exercise their powers (MacCormick 1977: 193-194).
Other theories of law suggest that rights are not just a set of demands, but a set of values, and they argue that laws must be founded on these values. These theories are not as commonly accepted as other types of legal theories, and they are not based on the notion that rights are universal or absolute.
However, these theories do agree that law is committed to rights, and they also agree that such a commitment is often manifested in a range of features that do not appear to be shared by other normative systems (Raz 1979; Sumner 1987). The main defining feature of a legal system committed to rights is the emphasis on individuality and liberty.