What is Law?

What is law?

Law has no specific meaning since it has can be explained from different perspectives. Until today, there is no generally accepted meaning of the word “Law”

Jurisprudence is the study of the nature of law

Persons who explained the term law from the same point of view form a school of jurisprudence/thought.

The first kind of jurisprudence seeks to analyze, classify, explain, and criticize the entire bodies of law

The second jurisprudence compares and contrasts law with other fields of knowledge

The third kind of jurisprudence reveals the historical, cultural, and moral basis of a certain legal concept

The last kind of jurisprudence focuses on establishing the answer to such abstract questions such as “What is law” and “how should cases be decided?”


School of Jurisprudence


Historical school

Natural school

Sociological school

Marxist school


Now, what is law?

The simplest meaning of law was explained by Hart

Hart explains that law is a coercive instrument that is used to regulate human behavior.

The assertion by Hart captures the command theory that assumes that existence of a sovereign is responsible for imposing penalties and sanctions to support the legal compliance

Marxists on the other hand postulates that law was meant to serve the interests of the dominant classes within the society

Salmond also provides another interesting meaning of law by asserting that “Law is the body of rules or principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of justice

From the above descriptions, it is evident that law consists of binding rules of human conduct. It can also be described as the aggregate or conglomeration of rules enforced by the courts of law at any given time

Functions or Purposes of Law

Law promotes peaceful coexistence between the members of the society

Law is a standard setting and control mechanisms for people’s behavior

Law protects rights and enforces duties by providing remedies whenever appropriate

Law facilitates and effectuates private practice

Law helps to resolve social conflicts

Law controls and structures the public power



Phil Harris. An Introduction to Law. Cambridge University Press; 8 edition (29 Oct. 2015)