Law: Meaning and Definitions

Business Law

Law is a body of rules that is used to guide human conduct. However, not all rules that guide human conduct that are laws. Laws are rules that a member of a community breaks at the pain of sanctions.

There are debates as to a universally acceptable definitions.  Such debates lead us to groups of legal philosophers to coalesce into schools of jurisprudence among which are the following:

(a) Analytical or Positivists. Law is something given by a sovereign law giver who does not obey any law in his domain. Also, any person who disobeys the law does so at the pain of sanctions (punishments)

(b) Natural law school. This school holds that law is divine, universal, a natural rule discoverable by man’s exercise of reason. According to this school, law is the aggregate of rules which are universally valid and derived from the law of nature, and discoverable through man’s exercise of reason.  The basis of this reasoning is that what is wrong in one country or region of the world is invariably wrong in another country, such as the killing of human beings or stealing. Natural law is very close to morality and it is the basis for the concept of fundamental human rights with which all human beings are endowed as a quality of being humans.

(c) Historical school. This School holds that law is found in the society, in the breasts of the people and that it is not really consciously given by a sovereign. Members of this School hold that the sovereign only codifies law, and that legal rules are in fact, rooted in the past, i.e. in the peoples’ history.  

(d) Sociological (Utilitarian) school. This school, led by Dean Roscoe Pound, claims that we cannot understand what law is unless we study what it does, and that the social context that directs the development of law must be analysed thoroughly in order to understand the nature and function of law.  This means that law is contextual, that it serves the people according to their social level.    

(e) Marxist school. This theory holds that the state and the law are the instruments of oppression instituted for the purpose of facilitating the exploitation of one class by another.  Law then is the instrument used to further the interest of the capitalist minority ruling class in their attempt to exploit the people, e.g. by protecting their property, capital and other means of production against the working class who have no capital or property.  

(f) The Realist School.  This school looks at law from the viewpoint that law is what the judges actually say it is.  This view is hinged on the fact that the legislature can make laws that are in contravention of the constitution or against natural justice, equity and good conscience.  Such laws will naturally be set aside by the courts.  It is when a law has been attacked and has succeeded in the pronouncement of the judge that it can be said to be a [good] law.  

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