What is law? Have you ever wondered?

what exactly is law

There are several definitions on the internet and on thousands of books. But there’s something that I read in a book named Letters to a law-student and it changed my perspective.

It might seem to be a very silly question but most of us have not thought about this question and not at least in its precise sense as to what is law

A young aspiring student asks his uncle, ‘What is Law?’. His uncle tells him that it is a conversation among lawmakers on what type of society we should live in.

He further adds, suppose you are planning on a vacation with your friends. You along with your friends sit down to discuss your itinerary. You have to decide your locations, your budget, who is going to handle what, and similar other things. The same way, It is a discussion among lawmakers on what sort of society should we live in.

So when we say, ‘What does the law say on such and such topic?’ we are generally referring to ‘Where are our lawmakers in their conversation about such and such thing?’

This conversation is ongoing and inter-generational. The fact that the previous generation of lawmakers has taken a certain position on such and such thing does not mean the next generation cannot take a different position, thereby bringing about a change in the law.

To have a better understanding, lawmakers are classified into two classes: the judges and the legislators. Judges decide on concrete cases, telling what the law says on that particular case and legislators lay down general rules in a form of statutory provisions.

Both the legislators and judges are delegated their respective functions and in performing so they give effect to the vision as to what sort of society we should live in.

The judge made laws are often referred to as the common law and the ones that the legislators make are known as statutory laws.

Well, I would say this was one interesting way to look at it.

If we dig deeper into the Introduction chapters of any law book, we will discover definitions like: It is a body of rules or set of rules that govern the society or law is a controlling authority in a civilized space.

You might already be aware of the subject called jurisprudence. It is basically the study behind the science of law. While studying the different variations of this science, many schools of jurisprudence evolved over the time and several renowned believers of each of these school defined it.

What is law according to these schools of jurisprudence?

As mentioned earlier, each school of jurisprudence has a different approach as to what is law. We shall discuss them here-

Analytical school‘s definition:

The major premise of Analytical school of jurisprudence is to deal with law as it exists in the present form. It seeks to analyse the first principle of law as the generally exist in legal systems. The exponents of Analytical school of jurisprudence consider that the most important aspect of law is its relation to the State.

They treat law as a command emanating from the sovereign namely the state. The school is also therefore called the Imperative school (imperative meaning crucial). The advocates of this school are neither concerned with the past of law nor with the future of it, but they confine themselves to the study as it actually exists i.e positus

Historical school‘s definition:

The historical school of jurisprudence views it as something that has always been there and we’ve just discovered it.

“It is argued that the law is the exaggerative form of social custom, economic needs, conventions religious principles, and relations of the people with society. Therefore, the followers of this school argued that it is found and not made. The historical school doesn’t believe and support the idea of the natural school i.e divine and authority from god.

Philosophical school’s definition:

According to the exponents of this school of jursprudence, legal philosophy must be based on ethical values so as to motivate people for an upright living. The science of ethics deals with the principle of morality which moulds man’s conduct enabling him to distinguish betwen right and wrong and respect the rights of others in order to maintain social harmony.

According to this school, the purpose is to maintain law&order in society and legal restrictions can be justified only if they promote the freedom of individuals in society.

Sociological school‘s definition:

The supporters of sociological jurisprudence linked it with other social science disciplines and treated it as a synthesis of psychology, philosophy, economics, political science, sociology, etc.

According to them it is an applied science employing functional methods of investigation and analysis for solving social and individual problems. In their view, it is concerned about its effect on society and it would be erroneous to treat is as a mere divine thing or people’s conscience.

Realist school’s definition:

Some jurists refuse to accept realism as a separate school of jurisprudence and hold that at best it may be called a branch of sociological Jurisprudence. It may preferably termed as a scientific approach. Realists upload only judge made law as genuine law that is laws made through judicial decisions and they do not give any relevance to laws enacted by the legislature.


Law in its most general and comprehensive sense means any rule of action and includes any standard or pattern to which actions are ought to be confirmed. In its judicial sense, it means a body of rules of conduct, action or behaviour of persons, made and enforced by states,

Therefore, we can conclude that it is a proposition commanding the doing or abstaining from doing an act or certain classes of acts, disobedience to which is followed or is likely to be followed by some sort of penalty or inconvenience.

By area of study and practice:

We have a lot of areas including but not limited to Civil law, International law, Islamic law, Criminal, Corporate, Contract, etc.

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