John Locke, in his Two Treatises of Government, and Baron de Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws, advocated for a separation of powers between the political, legislature and executive bodies. Their principle was that no person should be able to usurp all powers of the state, in contrast to the absolutist theory of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. Sun Yat-sen’s Five Power Constitution for the Republic of China took the separation of powers further by having two additional branches of government—a Control Yuan for auditing oversight and an Examination Yuan to manage the employment of public officials. In general, legal systems can be split between civil law and common law systems.
- Nevertheless, Israeli law allows litigants to use religious laws only if they choose.
- The traditional justification of bicameralism is that an upper chamber acts as a house of review.
- The law of agency, insurance law, bills of exchange, insolvency and bankruptcy law and sales law are all important, and trace back to the medieval Lex Mercatoria.
- The more people are involved with, concerned by and capable of changing how political power is exercised over their lives, the more acceptable and legitimate the law becomes to the people.
John Austin’s utilitarian answer was that law is “commands, backed by threat of sanctions, from a sovereign, to whom people have a habit of obedience”. Natural lawyers on the other side, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, argue that law reflects essentially moral and unchangeable laws of nature. The concept of “natural law” emerged in ancient Greek philosophy concurrently and in connection with the notion of justice, and re-entered the mainstream of Western culture through the writings of Thomas Aquinas, notably his Treatise on Law.
At first, jurists and legal philosophers were suspicious of sociology of law. Civil law jurisdictions treat contracts differently in a number of respects, with a more interventionist role for the state in both the formation and enforcement of contracts. In France, an ordinary contract is said to form simply on the basis of a “meeting of the minds” or a “concurrence of wills”. Germany has a special approach to contracts, which ties into property law. Their ‘abstraction principle’ means that the personal obligation of contract forms separately from the title of property being conferred.
But merely in describing, scholars who sought explanations and underlying structures slowly changed the way the law actually worked. Mass anarchist communities, ranging from Syria to the United States, exist and vary from hundreds to millions. Anarchism encompasses a broad range of social political philosophies with different tendencies and implementation. King Hammurabi is revealed the code of laws by the Mesopotamian sun god Shamash, also revered as the god of justice. Hugo Grotius, the founder of a purely rationalistic system of natural law, argued that law arises from both a social impulse—as Aristotle had indicated—and reason.
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For a description of legal training and a general background, see legal profession, legal education, and legal ethics. Articles that delineate the relationship of law to political structures are constitution; ideology; political party; and political system. For articles that discuss the importance of law regarding social justice and other social issues, see human rights; land reform; and social service. For an examination of comparative legal systems and the relationship of the law to the social sciences, see comparative law. For an analysis of the role of law in the administration of government, see administrative law.
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In the 19th century in England, and in 1937 in the U.S., the two systems were merged. The third type of legal system—accepted by some countries without separation of church and state—is religious law, based on scriptures. The specific system that a country is ruled by is often determined by its history, connections with other countries, or its adherence to international standards. The sources that jurisdictions adopt as authoritatively binding are the defining features of any legal system. Yet classification is a matter of form rather than substance since similar rules often prevail. Ancient Egyptian law, dating as far back as 3000 BC, was based on the concept of Ma’at and characterised by tradition, rhetorical speech, social equality and impartiality.
The boy said he would prefer the jewel back, so the apprentice gave it to him, but without the stones. Lord Chief Justice Pratt ruled that even though the boy could not be said to own the jewel, he should be considered the rightful keeper (“finders keepers”) until the original owner is found. In fact the apprentice and the boy both had a right of possession in the jewel , but the boy’s possessory interest was considered better, because it could be shown to be first in time. These rules enable the translation of the will of the people into functioning democracies. Significant to the practice of law in the common law tradition is the legal research to determine the current state of the law. This usually entails exploring case-law reports, legal periodicals and legislation.
However, the system became overly systematised—overly rigid and inflexible. As a result, as time went on, increasing numbers of citizens petitioned the King to override the common law, and on the King’s behalf the Lord Chancellor gave judgment to do what was equitable in a case. From the time of Sir Thomas More, the first lawyer to be appointed as Lord Chancellor, a systematic body of equity grew up alongside the rigid common law, and developed its own Court of Chancery. At first, equity was often criticised as erratic, that it varied according to the length of the Chancellor’s foot. Over time, courts of equity developed solid principles, especially under Lord Eldon.
As nationalism grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Law Merchant was incorporated into countries’ local law under new civil codes. In contrast to English common law, which consists of enormous tomes of case law, codes in small books are easy to export and easy for judges to apply. EU law is codified in treaties, but develops through de facto precedent laid down by the European Court of Justice. Law is a set of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. State-enforced laws can be made by a group legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or established by judges through precedent, usually in common law jurisdictions.