Law is the set of rules and principles governing human behaviour. Its chief purposes are establishing standards, maintaining order and resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. It also serves to promote social justice and facilitate orderly social change. Different legal systems serve these functions differently. For example, an authoritarian regime may keep the peace and maintain the status quo but will not necessarily protect minorities or preserve individual rights.
Various theories exist concerning the nature and purpose of law. One theory is that laws are only considered to be true laws if they have actual value in the real world. Another theory holds that it is the judiciary, and not the legislature, that creates the law.
A more idealistic theory is that the law exists to prevent certain types of harm, such as injury to people or property. Another important function of the law is to make people aware of their obligations and responsibilities.
The field of law is broad and encompasses a variety of topics. Some areas of law include contract law, which regulates agreements to exchange goods or services; criminal law, which lays out the punishment for crimes committed against society; and property law, which defines people’s rights and duties toward their tangible properties (e.g., houses and vehicles) and intangible assets (e.g., bank accounts and stocks). Laws can also be categorized according to their subject matter, such as air law, bankruptcy law, family law or monetary law.