The law is important for a society for it serves as a norm of conduct for citizens. It was also made to provide for proper guidelines and order upon the behaviour for all citizens and to sustain the equity on the three branches of the government. It keeps the society running. Without law there would be chaos and it would be survival of the fittest and everyman for himself. Not an ideal lifestyle for most part.
The law is important because it acts as a guideline as to what is accepted in society. Without it there would be conflicts between social groups and communities. It is pivotal that we follow them. The law allows for easy adoption to changes that occur in the society.
Society is a ‘web-relationship’ and social change obviously means a change in the system of social relationship where a social relationship is understood in terms of social processes and social interactions and social organizations. Thus, the term, ‘social change’ is used to indicate desirable variations in social institution, social processes and social organization. It includes alterations in the structure and functions of the society. Closer analysis of the role of law vis-à-vis social change leads us to distinguish between the direct and the indirect aspects of the role of law.
1. Law plays an important indirect role in regard to social change by shaping a direct impact on society. For example: A law setting up a compulsory educational system.
2. On the other hand, law interacts in many cases indirectly with basic social institutions in a manner constituting a direct relationship between law and social change. For example, a law designed to prohibit polygamy.
Law plays an agent of modernization and social change. It is also an indicator of the nature of societal complexity and its attendant problems of integration. Further, the reinforcement of our belief in the age-old panchayat system, the abolition of the abhorable practices of untouchability, child marriage, sati, dowry etc are typical illustrations of social change being brought about in the country trough laws.
Law is an effective medium or agency, instrumental in bringing about social change in the country or in any region in particular. Therefore, we rejuvenate our belief that law has been pivotal in introducing changes in the societal structure and relationships and continues to be so.
Law certainly has acted as a catalyst in the process of social transformation of people wherein the dilution of caste inequalities, protective measures for the weak and vulnerable sections, providing for the dignified existence of those living under unwholesome conditions etc. are the illustrious examples in this regard. Social change involves an alteration of society; its economic structure, values and beliefs, and its economic, political and social dimensions also undergo modification. However, social change does not affect all aspects of society in the same manner.
While much of social change is brought about by material changes such as technology, new patterns of production, etc., other conditions are also necessary. For example, as we have discussed it before, legal prohibition of untouchability in free India has not succeeded because of inadequate social support.
Nonetheless, when law cannot bring about change without social support, it still can create certain preconditions for social change. Moreover, after independence, the Constitution of India provided far-reaching guidelines for change. Its directive principle suggested a blueprint for a new nation. The de-recognition of the caste system, equality before the law and equal opportunities for all in economic, political and social spheres were some of the high points of the Indian Constitution.
The Relationship between Law and Society
Theorists have traditionally maintained that there are certain broad views on the substantive criminal law. One set of such constraints concerns the sorts of behaviour that may legitimately be prohibited. Is it proper, for example, to criminalize a certain kind of action on the grounds that most people in one’s society regard it as immoral? The other set of constraints which concerns what is needed in order to establish criminal responsibility that is liability, independently of the content of the particular statute whose violation is in question.
Legal system reflects all the energy of life within in any society. Law has the complex vitality of a living organism. We can say that law is a social science characterized by movement and adaptation. Rules are neither created nor applied in a vacuum, on the other hand they created and used time and again for a purpose. Rules are intended to move us in a certain direction that we assume is good, or prohibit movement in direction that we believe is bad.
The social rules are made by the members of the society. Disobedience of the social rules is followed by punishment of social disapproval. There is no positive penalty associated with the violation of rules except excommunication or ostracism. On the other hand, law is enforced by the state. The objective of law is to bring order in the society so the members of society can progress and develop with some sort of security regarding the future. The state makes laws. Disobedience of state laws invites penalty, which is enforced by the government by the power of the state. What is not enforceable is not Law.
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behaviour, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people.
If the harm is criminalized in legislation, criminal law offers means by which the state can prosecute the perpetrator. Constitutional law provides a framework for the creation of law, the protection of human rights and the election of political representatives.
Administrative law is used to review the decisions of government agencies, while international law governs affairs between sovereign states in activities ranging from trade to environmental regulation or military action. The legal response to a given social or technological problem is therefore in itself a major social action which may aggravate a given problem or alleviate and help to solve it.