Law is a set of rules that a society lays down to maintain order and protect people from harm. These laws are often enforced by the police and a court system. In some countries, tens or hundreds of thousands of pages of laws are written and maintained by legislators.
Laws are a fundamental component of society, and are the foundation of government. They determine how a person may interact with others in the public, as well as their rights and responsibilities.
There are many different ways to understand and study the nature of law, and each approach is unique. Some schools of thought regard it as a result of natural processes, while other school of thought see it as a product of human culture and history.
A number of philosophers have argued about the meaning and scope of law. The classic debate between positivist and natural law schools of thought is a key example of this.
Vitalistic Approach – Law as Social Phenomenon
The vitalistic approach of law is based on the idea that legal norms and corresponding standards are social phenomena that arise out of the popular consciousness (Volkgeist). It argues that these norms should be in compliance with the public’s views, even if they are not written down.
This approach is also referred to as the “normative” school of law. The realist approach, on the other hand, considers law to be a task performed by an institution rather than a result of norm parameters.
Realism – Law as a Social Process
The realistic approach to law is similar to the vitalistic approach, but it focuses more on the authorities’ actions in cases of conflict and less on community compliance with these regulations. It is therefore a more social and practical school of law than the vitalistic approach.
It is also more flexible than the vitalistic approach. This is because it recognizes the importance of human reason and conscience, which are not part of a ‘norm’ but form an integral part of the ‘law’ itself.
Despite the differences between these two approaches, both believe that law has an important regulating function, but differ in how to define it. To the vitalistic approach, law is a social phenomenon that acts as a tool for conflict resolution and as an orientation for citizens.
Realism, on the other hand, views law as a ‘tool’ that is used by an institution to perform its function of regulating and orientating citizens. It is not only a consequence of social norms but also an expression of institutional culture and practice, which has to be in compliance with the laws it regulates.
The most prominent and influential philosophers of law are those who studied the theory and application of law as a social process. They include such notable philosophers as John Austin, Charles Mill, and Friedrich Karl von Savigny.