Law encompasses the rules and practices of a society or community. These can be based on custom and religion, or they can be codified in legislation. They are enforced by a system of penalties. Some of the most well-known laws are tort laws (such as car accidents or defamation), civil rights, and criminal laws. Civil laws deal with disputes between individuals, while criminal laws govern behavior that violates the community as a whole.
The study of law is the subject of a wide range of academic disciplines, including legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. It also raises many important and complex issues concerning equality and fairness.
There is considerable debate about the nature and purpose of law, and how it should be created and enforced. Some academics view law as a social construct, while others believe that it is natural and objective.
In most countries, the making and enforcement of laws is a political process. Some governments, especially those with large military or economic power, have a greater ability to create and enforce laws than others. There are periodic revolts against existing political-legal authority, and aspirations for democratic rule and greater “rights” for citizens.
Despite the many disagreements about the nature of law, there is general agreement that it is necessary for a functional society. The major questions that surround the development, interpretation, and application of law are: who makes and enforces the laws; what kind of knowledge is required for judging the legality of conduct; and how to guarantee the impartiality of justice.