Jurisprudence involves the study of general theoretical questions about the nature of laws and legal systems, about the relationship of law to justice and morality and about the social nature of law (M.D.A.Freeman, Lloyds Introduction to Jurisprudence, (1994) London: Sweet & Maxwell)
The above quotation is an admirable attempt to encapsulate the breadth of jurisprudential study in one sentence. However, what must be acknowledged is that jurisprudence is an area of study with many different perspectives and foci.
On one hand jurisprudence might be described as legal theory. Legal theory refers to perspectives on the nature of law. For example, is law by nature a set of rules, or is it a reflection of a society's morality or even a manifestation of power relations? Different legal theorists have different views as to the nature of law and so a number of legal theories come under the heading jurisprudence, including positivism, natural law, Marxist legal theory and feminist legal theory to name but a few.
Alternatively, jurisprudence may also refer to legal philosophy. Legal philosophy explores the value implications of referring to something as legal. For example, does legality always connote moral worth and subsequently require obedience? Again, jurisprudence may refer to a more particular area of analysis. In this sense jurisprudence may mean the consideration of the meaning of particular legal concepts. Such concepts have traditionally included duty, rights, legitimacy, authority and legal personality.
Lastly, jurisprudence may be an analytical means by which to examine contemporary issues. Debates including the legality of abortion and euthanasia, the legal status of acts of civil disobedience carried out by anti-globalisation protesters and the rights of women versus pornographers have all been the subjected to jurisprudential discussion in an attempt to clarify the competing interests and claims.