Laws are distinguished from other kinds of rules through their confirmation by the state and through the provision of a penal code. Those who disobey these laws are fined, awarded physical punishment and are sometimes even hanged. No other association inside the state exerts such a widespread authority over its members.
The rules of other associations have to be sanctioned by these laws. If the rules of some associations are not in conformity with these laws, they can be abolished with the help of the state. In this way, law is the only authority, within the territory of the state, which helps in the organization of other associations.
Law is called an institution because it has a sanction behind it. Law is not merely a custom. Any custom can become a law when it receives a sanction from political authority. In most of the countries, laws are enacted and the state obtains their compliance through police aid.
Laws are defined in courts and it is through courts that punishment, for those who disobey the laws, is legalized. There are many kinds of high and low courts in civilized countries. Appeal against the judgement of a law court can be made in a high court but the judgement of the supreme court is final.
From the discussion of the aforesaid definition of law, a question arises as to how law and justice are enforced in primitive societies where there are no police and no courts. It is true, but it only demonstrates the fact that the form of law in aprimitive society is different from the form of law in a civilized society.
Coercion for the maintenance of law or justice does exist in a primitive society but it is not in the shape of a police force nor does it need to be defined by a judge. In many primitive societies, the word of the chieftain is a law and the chieftain himself is the judge. This position is sometimes occupied by a priest because law in a primitive society is considered to be a part of natural or supernatural principle.