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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
Legal systems are particular ways of establishing and maintaining social order.

Definition of law - Legal Positivism

John Austin (English
jurist born 1790)
"Province of

"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
"The Concept of Law"

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


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
Aristotle (Greek
philosopher born 304

An embodiment of Reason, whether in the individual or the


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

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

"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"

"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".