Understanding the Basics of Law


During the 19th century, philosophers such as John Austin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Aquinas defined law as “moral laws of nature”. In the late 19th and early 20th century, utilitarian theories remained dominant, but in the 21st century, a new concept of law emerged, namely that of natural law.

Aside from being a field of science, law is also a social institution, which shapes politics, economics, and history. Its basic purpose is to mediate relations between people.

There are three main types of legal systems: common law, civil law, and international law. These three systems have their own distinct judicial practices. However, all of them share a common principle: they are based on the idea that a governing body or government has the power to enforce certain rules.

In common law legal systems, courts are given the authority to make decisions based on specific cases. These decisions are referred to as precedents. The doctrine of precedent means that a court’s decisions bind future ones. In addition, the age of the decision and the closeness of the facts influence the authority of a case in common law.

In civil law legal systems, judicial decisions are less detailed. They are based on regulations and statutes. In these systems, the executive branch is explicitly acknowledged in judicial decisions.

The United Nations has undertaken extensive legal work, such as combating terrorism, protecting the environment, and addressing the international dimension of many issues. The organization continues to advance the development of international law.

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