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The law is legislation that is established and implemented via social or political institutions in order to control conduct; nevertheless, the exact meaning of the law has been a source of long-running controversy. It has been referred to as both a science and an art, depending on who you ask. A collective legislature or a single legislator may create state-enforced laws, which are known as statutes. State-enforced laws can also be created by the executive via decrees and regulations, or established by courts through precedent, which is typically the case in common law countries. Private people have the ability to enter into legally enforceable contracts, including arbitration agreements, that provide for alternate conflict resolution methods to traditional court action. Written or unwritten, a constitution's formation and the rights enshrined in it may have an impact on the formulation of laws itself. Politics, economics, history, and society are all shaped in different ways by the law, which also acts as a mediator in interpersonal relationships.

The legal systems of different nations differ, and the distinctions between them are examined in comparative law. In civil law countries, a legislature or other central authority is responsible for codifying and consolidating the legislation. Generally speaking, under common law regimes, judges establish legally binding case law via precedent, but this may be reversed by a higher court or by the legislature on rare occasions. Religious law has historically had an impact on secular issues, and it is still in use in certain religious groups today. A legal system based on Islamic ideas is utilised as the main legal system in a number of nations, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, among others.

The scope of the law may be split into two categories. Civil and administrative law, as well as criminal law, are all areas of public law that affect the government and the general public. Private law is concerned with legal conflicts between people and/or organisations in areas such as contracts, property, torts/delicts, and commercial law, among others. Generally speaking, civil law nations, especially those with a separate system of administrative courts, have a greater difference between public and private law; in contrast, the public-private law split is less apparent in common law jurisdictions.

Law serves as a source of academic research in a variety of fields, including legal history, philosophy, economics, and sociology. In addition, the law presents significant and complicated problems about equality, fairness, and justice, among other things.