Law is the system of rules that regulates behavior in a society. The precise definition of the word “law” is a matter of debate and has been variously referred to as the art of justice or as a science (MacCormick 1977: 189 & 206; Sumner 1987: 68-70; Raz 1994: 263-268).
Laws are created by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour, usually through statutes, regulations or judicial decisions. These laws can also be established by private individuals or corporations, in contracts, arbitration agreements and other forms of legal agreement.
There are many different types of laws, and they vary from nation to nation. Some of the most common include:
Business law is a branch of law that deals with commercial transactions and property rights. It includes areas such as company law, contract law and civil and criminal litigation.
Constitutional law is another important area of law that covers the governing principles and powers of a government or state. It involves many of the same types of issues as other areas of law, but it also includes such areas as human rights and censorship.
Religious law is based on the precepts of a religion, either explicitly or through interpretation. Jewish and Christian law are examples of this type of law.
Regulation is another important area of law that involves the administration of a society’s social services and utilities, such as energy, gas, telecomms and water. This area of law has grown to be an important field of study, especially as privatisation has resulted in the removal of governmental control over these industries.
Remedies are often offered by law as a way of satisfying the needs of those who have been deprived or injured by others in violation of a primary right. These can take the form of enforcement through self-help, policing, or a court order.
The definition of a right is important because it determines how and whether the law can or should provide its holders with remedial rights.
A legal right is a norm or set of norms that governs the relationship between parties in the context of certain other norms, mainly claims, privileges, immunities and powers.
Generally speaking, there are two basic types of rights:
Claims and privileges relate to the capacity or power of right-holders to assert their interests, or to demand that others do so on their behalf. These are the dominant types of rights, which are commonly associated with Hohfeld’s four positions:
First-order norms pertain to what the right-holder can and should do or may do. These include such things as a right to a hearing, a trial by jury, confronting witnesses, notice of accusation and receiving reasons for official decisions.
Second-order norms pertain to the broader circumstances that surround a given right, which include such things as the right-holder’s status and position in a particular social setting and the impact of other norms on the decision making process or the course of events. These include such things as whether a right-holder can be deprived of her property or her freedom to express her views in the public sphere.