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Home >> Sociology of Law >> How Law is different from Custom

How Law is different from Custom

Law is explicitly and deliberately made by the definite power of the state. Customs is a group of procedure that has gradually emerged without express enactment without any constituted authority to declare it; to apply it and to safeguard it. Custom emerges spontaneously without any guide or direction. Law is consciously created and put into force at the moment of its enactment. Law is applied by a special agency and is sanctioned by organized coercive authority. Customs does not need any special agency for its application; it is enforced by spontaneous social action. Law is specific, definite and clear known to all. Customs are not definite or clear. They are not codified so it becomes difficult to know all the customs of the land. Law can readily adjust itself to changing condition; whereas customs cannot be readily changed. Customs are relatively fixed and permanent. In times of crisis a law can be immediately enacted to meet the emergency. A sudden change cannot be brought about in custom. The more dynamic the society, the less is reliance placed on traditional customary rules and the more it is placed on newly enacted regulations.

Thus law is more flexible and adaptable than custom. The former can be introduced, amended or abolished with relative ease whereas to reform the latter is difficult. Law tends to be more idealistic than a custom that is the product experience and mainly concerned with the daily routine of life. Law reforms the customs and abolishes those that are out of tune with the changing conditions. Law generally deals with matters that are vital to the life of society whereas the subject matter of custom is more ordinary and familiar. Customs fade and disappear without formal abolition and without recognition by any authority but laws disappear only when abolished by a recognized authority. Just as formal enactment of law is necessary for it to come into effect so its formal abolition is necessary to stop its binding influence.


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