What Is the Rule of Law?


Law is an established body of norms that people are entitled to study, internalize, and use as a framework for conduct. Its primary function is to protect people from the abuses of power and to settle disputes in a fair and impartial manner. The legal system must be independent of government officials and ensure transparency and integrity of its legal procedures.


The question of legitimacy of law is central to jurisprudence. It involves a number of issues, including the sources of law, the role of courts, and the content of legal norms. However, legitimacy does not necessarily depend on the sources of law. Legal norms can be legitimate even if they do not represent the will of the public. Legal positivism, on the other hand, rejects any distinction between legitimacy and content.

To understand the role of law within society, it is helpful to understand how it fits within the broader social and political structure. Legitimacy is not merely about efficiency, convenience, or right, though these are important considerations as well. For instance, courts do not exist because they are inconvenient, but because they are legitimate uses of force.


Formality in law is an important feature of a legal system. The goal of formality is to protect vulnerable individuals and to preserve the essence of a legal agreement. Formal features of law can include the wording, structure, and language used in agreements. Whether a transaction is a deed, a trust agreement, or other type of equitable interest, these features are crucial to the success of the transaction.

Formality in law includes seemingly insignificant points of practice. Contracts, copyright issues, and corporate law all have formalities. For example, a contract must contain certain words and conditions in order to be valid. Similarly, a corporation must adhere to certain requirements to protect its intellectual property. In the United States, these formalities include a copyright notice, deposit with the Library of Congress, and registration with a copyright office.

Procedural character

Procedural character of law refers to the rules of the law that are designed to ensure that rights and obligations are properly and efficiently enforced. Without these rules, a legal system would be inefficient, unfair, and disrupt social peace. Procedural character of law is thus the umbrella term for the set of legal rules that define and enforce the rights and obligations of parties in court.

Procedural law is different from substantive law. It governs the machinery of the court system and the methods by which legal rights are enforced in court. It includes rules that govern jurisdiction, pleading and practice, evidence, appeal, execution of judgments, and representation of counsel. In contrast, substantive law refers to the actual claims and defenses that are enforceable in court.

Substantive ideals

Legal positivism and substantive ideals are two opposing theoretical strands within the Rule of Law. The former addresses how the community is governed and the normative processes necessary for administering the law. The latter addresses the nature of legal rules themselves. Ultimately, however, there can be no substantive justice without rules.

Finnis, on the other hand, views law as the necessary function of state coercion. He argues that unjust laws are not fully law because they do not fulfill the moral ideals implied in the concept of law.

Civil society

Among other things, civil society serves as a balance to the power of the state. In modern capitalist states, this entity is associated with the market and opposes the concentration of power. It also stands for the private interests of individuals against the power of the state. The balance between the state and civil society is the central issue.

There are many ways to conceptualize civil society. One approach is to study its historical context. This helps understand the nature and role of civil society. The most obvious impact of historical contexts is on the legal and regulatory environments, as well as the internal governance traditions of civil society.