CONCEPTS

What is a legal norm?

We explain what are the legal norms, their characteristics, how they are classified and various examples. In addition, other types of standards.

  1. What is a legal norm?

Legal norms are the mandates, rules or requirements emanating from a legal or judicial authority . They assign duties, confer rights or impose sanctions on individuals living in a society , granting them a common framework by which to judge their actions, that is, by which to exercise justice.

They should not be confused with laws , which are only one type of legal norm . In fact, the legal order of societies is nothing more than the sum of the legal norms established in each society, that is, the way of understanding justice and governing its institutions that each one has. There the different aspects of individual, citizen and institutional life are contemplated, in the form of a constitutional text or a Magna Carta of some kind.

Normally, legal norms are distinguished from religious and other forms of social norms, although in theocratic societies, such as those that abounded in the European Middle Ages , or among civilizations of antiquity , the religious text is at the same time the legal text , that is, religious norms would be the same legal norms.

  1. Characteristics of legal norms

Legal norms have three essential characteristics that distinguish them from others, such as:

  • They are heteronomous . That is, they are imposed on the individual by the collective itself, that is, by an entity outside itself, from “outside.”
  • They are coercible . Compliance with these norms is reinforced by education and punishment, since the State that watches over its fulfillment has a monopoly on violence .
  • They are bilateral . They involve two parties: the individual subject to the rule and the party responsible for ensuring compliance with the provisions of it.
  1. Classification of legal norms

There are different ways of classifying legal norms. Two of the most important have to do with:

Depending on the will of the individual , that is, depending on what they establish for the people. Can we talk about:

  • Imperative rules . Those that force a certain behavior, regardless of the will of the individual. Like criminal laws .
  • Operative rules . Those that force a certain behavior as long as there is no express will contrary.
  • Interpretative rules . Those that determine or interpret legal events or texts taking into account the provisions of the Law.

There is a similar classification, known as the Hartiana classification (proposed by English law philosopher Herbert Adolphus Hart, 1907-1992), which differentiates legal norms based on the same criteria, but as follows:

  • Primary norms , which regulate human behavior, prohibiting, allowing and forcing.
  • Secondary norms , which attribute powers or faculties, attending different public and private aspects.
  • Exchange rules , which establish how legal rules can be totally or partially repealed, how to modify or introduce new ones.

Depending on their collective or individual interest , that is, whether or not they can be modified by individuals. Can we talk about:

  • Public order rules . Born from the common good and collective interest, they are general and the individual must submit to them, whether they like it or not.
  • Private order rules . Those that can be more or less elaborated by individuals, which silently govern their dealings and agreements, such as contracts .
  1. Examples of legal norms

Examples of legal rules the laws that confer powers, duties or prohibit certain actions. Also the legal codes , the judicial regulations, the legal systems and all the norms that govern the society and that come from the legal authority. Decrees and decisions are also legal norms, as well as judicial decisions .

  1. Legal norms and moral norms

moral legal norms
Animal rights are an example of moral norms that become legal norms.

Legal norms and social norms have in common that they are the fruit of society’s control over itself. However, they come from very different instances. On the one hand, legal entities make up the legal scaffolding of a company. On the other hand, moral norms are part of the cultural, religious or emotional tradition of society itself.

While legal norms deal with the administration of justice, moral norms involve what society considers traditionally good, correct or in good taste. Moral norms are partially coercive, since society ensures compliance.

On the other hand, many legal regulations reflect and come from moral norms . For example, the notion of animal rights comes from the moral norms of recent times and is already beginning to be reflected in the legal norms of some countries.

  1. Other types of standards

The norms or normative orders can be of many types, according to the authority that issues them or to the vital space that they try to regulate or control. Thus, it is also possible to talk about:

  • Religious norms . They arise from religious institutions. They are personal and voluntary. They affect the spiritual life of people, through adherence to a code or philosophy considered as a path to salvation or elevation.
  • Moral standards . They govern the behavior of individuals in a given society, according to what it has traditionally understood as “good”, “bad” or “adequate”.
  • Social norms . They regulate the coexistence of the individuals of a community . They come from mutual agreement and consensus.

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