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I know this question title is awkward, so let me explain by example:

The word "law" means different things in different contexts. You have the "laws of natural science" (e.g. the law of energy conservation) versus the "laws of __" (e.g. shoplifting is against the law).

I have trouble filling in the blank. States? Nations? Jurisdictions? Am I on the right track at all by thinking about governmental jargon?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I believe that the word you're looking for is jurisprudence which is defined as:

The philosophy, science, and study of law and decisions based on the interpretation thereof.

Quoting from "Natural Law And Laws of Nature in Early Modern Europe: Jurisprudence, Theology, Moral And Natural Philosophy":

From then on, the basic underlying differences between the laws of jurisprudence and the laws of natural science could no longer be overlooked.

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Aha, I knew there was a word for this. Exactly what I was looking for! Thanks, will accept your answer when the timer lets me. – Ben Lee Aug 6 '12 at 7:44

I would generally call this the "laws of the land" but this is not a formal term.

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