Law is a collection of rules that shape politics, economics and history, and serves as a mediator of relations between people. Its precise definition is a subject of debate and study in the fields of legal history, philosophy, social analysis and economics. The law shapes many different aspects of our lives, including criminal laws which punish conduct seen as harmful to society and civil laws which settle disputes between individuals.
The concept of the rule of law is an essential component of international law, a fundamental principle of the United Nations (UN) system that requires States to ensure that their laws are publicly promulgated and equally enforced, that all persons and institutions are accountable to the law and that decisions are made transparently. The law also aims to promote respect for internationally recognised human rights norms and standards.
Although legal systems vary from country to country, they generally fall into groups with some similarities based on historically accepted justice ideals. Some of these include civil law jurisdictions, which have a central legislative authority that codifies and consolidates their laws, common law systems, where judge-made precedent is binding, and religious law, which lays out precepts such as Jewish Halakha or Islamic Sharia.
Some societies and cultures have longstanding customs that greatly influence their ideas of justice, and these often become the basis of a local law known as customary law. In other cases, communities without strong formal legal systems may rely on a body of unwritten law called case law, which draws upon institutionalized opinions and interpretations from judicial authorities and public juries.