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What is Law?

It is possible to describe law as the body of official rules and regulations, generally found
in constitutions, legislation, judicial opinions, and the like, that is used to govern a society
and to control the behaviour of its members, so Law is a formal mechanism of social
control.
Legal systems are particular ways of establishing and maintaining social order.

Definition of law - Legal Positivism


John Austin (English
jurist born 1790)
"Province of
Jurisprudence
Determined"

"A rule laid down for the guidance of an intelligent being by


an intelligent being having power over him."

Professor Hart
(Oxford Professor of
jurisprudence, born
1907)
"The Concept of Law"
(1961)

Hart defined law as a system of rules, a union of primary and


secondary rules,

"A body of rules fixed and enforced by a sovereign political


authority."

Definition of law - Marxist theory


Marxist theories of law generally define law as a tool of
oppression used by capitalists to control the proletariat.

Definition of law - Natural Law.


Plato (Greek
philosopher born 427
BC)
Aristotle (Greek
philosopher born 304
BC)

An embodiment of Reason, whether in the individual or the


community.

St Thomas Aquinas
(Italian philosopher
born 1224)

"Nothing else than an ordinance of reason for the common


good, made by him who has care of the community, and
promulgated"

"Summa Theologiae
(Summary of
Theology)", Question
90, Art. 4
Definition of law - Legal Realism
Oliver Wendell
Holmes (American
judge and jurist born
1841)
"The Path of the Law"
in Collected Papers,
1920

"The prophecies of what the courts will do ... are what I mean
by the law,"

The Jurist and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell
Holmes Jr., was born in 1841. Oliver W. Holmes Jr. died in 1935. For information, Oliver
Wendell Holmes Sr. (a Physician and Author) was born in 1809 and died in 1894.

Karl Llewellyn
(American legal scholar
born 1893)
"The Bramble Bush"
1951

"What officials do about disputes,"

Lord BrowneWilkinson (Senior Law


Lord born 1930)

"The sum of the influences that determine decisions in courts


of justice."

Other definitions
Definition of Law Max Weber
(German Sociologist
born 1954)

"Lawexist if it is externally guaranteed by the probability of


coercion (physical or psychological) to bring about conformity
or avenge violation, and is applied by a staff of people holding
themselves specially ready for that purpose."

Definition of law Thomas Hobbes


(English philosopher
born 1588)

Hobbes said of the role and function of law in his polemic


work Leviathan (1651)
"Law is the formal glue that holds fundamentally disorganised
societies together."

Definition of law Glanville Williams


Learning the law

"Law is the cement of society and also an essential medium of


change. Knowledge of law increases ones understanding of
public affairs. Its study promotes accuracy of expression,
facility in argument and skill in interpreting the written word,
as well as some understanding of social values".