Although the essence of law is quite seriousand a complex topic, its explanation and understanding is extremely important and necessary for understanding the very essence of legal science. In scientific use there are many different interpretations and theories that determine the main categories on which law is based. These theories as mutually contradictory, and complement each other.

In Soviet science, the most commonthe theory of positive law, which primarily identifies those norms of law that are created by the state and support its functioning. The essence of law this theory sees in the established by the state and, as a rule, fixed in written laws, legal norms and regulations. Even if these normative acts issued by the state appear to be unfair and anti-human, they are still a right that must be followed. This theory gained immense popularity in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, but at the present time other theories successfully compete with it.

From the point of view of supporters of natural law,which received the most substantiation in the 17-18 centuries, although the roots of this theory go back to the era of antiquity, the essence of law is that it arises from the natural, innate properties of human nature. The source of law in this concept is Theory natural law. Its most prominent representatives areabsolute principles that "come out" through human consciousness and manifest themselves in beliefs about what is justice, freedom, equality. These beliefs are codified as interdependent and universal natural rights that are inherent in a person by its very nature, and which no one can take from him, including the state. This theory, one of the founders of which is the famous Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, formed the basis of the theory of human rights. This theory is historically the earliest.

Those who share the concept of the law of the natural,do not at all deny the existence of a positive right, but they do not base the essence and content of law on the will and needs of the state, but on the protection of the individual. Therefore, they believe that a positive right that violates natural rights, even fixed by law, is in fact not the law. The state can only consider the laws created by it to be truly legal if the criteria of natural law were taken into account when writing and codifying them. Therefore, in this concept, the essential difference between law and legislation is very important. If the latter does not fall under the provisions of natural law, the state can not be considered legal.

A law school based on a historical approach,criticized the theory of natural law, emerged at one time with her. It originated in Germany. Its representatives believed that morality and values ​​in society develop historically, and there are no absolute moral requirements. This is proved by the fact that at different times different systems of morality and concepts of the public good often met in different states and regions. However, the formation and development of society led to the formation of certain practical social norms and customs, the observance of which facilitates life and leads to stability. When people noticed and singled out such norms, they fixed them with certain contracts, the observance of which was required of all. Therefore, the essence of law is local and national customs, which have taken the form of written treaties and laws. The state, with such an approach, has the function of an auxiliary institution that only regulates customs.

In modern legal science at this timethe basic theory of natural law is very common, especially in the sphere affecting international relations and human rights, although many elements of the historical approach are also used as valid ones. There were also many other theories supplementing the main ones - normative, suggesting to investigate the "pure" right as some hierarchical emanation of the norm of obligation, outside the social and historical context; sociological, which seeks the content of law in the relationships of various social groups and associations; psychological, which concentrates on the legal emotions of the subject or groups of people as a source of unofficial law, and so on. In fact, the difference between all these approaches is that each of them defines as the essence of law the norms of behavior established by the state, relations between people that develop historically, or the legal consciousness based on universal values.

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