Thomas Spencer Jerome Lecture Series, April 2014

Ancient and Modern Equality

Aldo Schiavone, Professor of Roman Law, Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane - Scuola Normale Superiore

The idea of equality is one of the constituent features of Western identity. Bound up within it in an almost inextricabe fashion are the legacy of the classical world and modern thought, the ancient polis and industrial society.  

The aim of my lectures is to outline a genealogy of this character, beginning with two elements that made its birth possible: the invention of politics and democracy by the Greeks, and the invention of law by the Romans.  These were the two paradigms that enabled the modern construction of equality through the great revolutions of the eighteenth century, in America and France. And it is still from them that we must begin if we wish to ask ourselves what the future of this decisive experience will be.