Law is a body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by a political authority. It is a system of social control which is used to ensure that individuals act in accordance with the values and principles of the community.
There are a number of different theories about the function and purpose of law. One view is that the main function of law is to protect individual rights and secure justice. Another view is that the purpose of law is to bring about desired social change. Some legal systems are better at serving these purposes than others. For example, a nation ruled by an authoritarian government may be able to keep the peace and maintain the status quo but it may also oppress minorities or political opponents.
A third theory of the purpose and function of law is that it is a means for resolving disputes. This view is based on the idea that society is made up of individuals who have different needs, wants and values. Disputes are inevitable in such a context and they need to be resolved. The law provides a formal means for resolving these disputes – the courts.
A fourth view of the purpose and function of law is that the main purpose of law is to protect the social values to which everyone in a society subscribes. This is a particularly appealing view to many people because it implies that laws are morally justified in the same way as any other norms. This view of the purpose and function of law is known as communicative law theory or Hart’s approach.