|Born||18 October 1909|
|Died||9 January 2004 (aged 94)|
|Alma mater||University of Turin|
Norberto Bobbio (Italian: [norˈbɛrto ˈbɔbbjo]; 18 October 1909 – 9 January 2004) was an Italian philosopher of law and political sciences and a historian of political thought. He also wrote regularly for the Turin-based daily La Stampa. Bobbio was a liberal socialist in the tradition of Piero Gobetti, Carlo Rosselli, Guido Calogero , and Aldo Capitini. He was also strongly influenced by Hans Kelsen and Vilfredo Pareto.
Bobbio was born in Turin on October 18th, 1909, to Luigi and Rosa Caviglia. The middle class status of his family (his father was a doctor) allowed Bobbio to have a comfortable childhood. He wrote verses and loved Bach and Verdi's La traviata opera. Later, he would develop an unknown illness that give him "the feeling of the fatigue of living, of a permanent and invincible tiredness." This feeling worsened with age but became an important part of his intellectual growth.
Bobbio studied at the Liceo Classico Massimo d'Azeglio, where he met Leone Ginzburg, Vittorio Foa, and Cesare Pavese, who would all become major figures in the culture of the Italian Republic. From 1928, like many youth from the era, Bobbio was registered with the Italian National Fascist Party.
Bobbio was born into what his Guardian obituary described as "a relatively wealthy, middle-class Turin family" whose sympathies Bobbio would later characterize as "philo-fascist, regarding fascism as a necessary evil against the supposedly greater danger of Bolshevism". In high school he met Vittorio Foa, Leone Ginzburg and Cesare Pavese, and at the university he became a friend of Alessandro Galante Garrone.
In 1942, under the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and during World War II, Bobbio joined the then illegal radical liberal socialist party Partito d'Azione ("Party of Action") and was briefly imprisoned in 1943 and 1944. He ran unsuccessfully in the 1946 Constituent Assembly of Italy elections. With the party's failure in a post-war Italy dominated by the Christian Democrats, Bobbio left electoral politics and returned his focus to academia.
He was one of the major exponents of left-right political distinctions, arguing that the Left believes in attempting to eradicate social inequality, while the Right regards most social inequality as the result of ineradicable natural inequalities, and sees attempts to enforce social equality as utopian or authoritarian.
A strong advocate of the rule of law, the separation of powers, and the limitation of powers, he was a socialist, but opposed to what he perceived as the anti-democratic, authoritarian elements in most of Marxism. He was a strong partisan of the Historic Compromise between the Italian Communist Party and the Christian Democrats, and a fierce critic of Silvio Berlusconi. Bobbio died in Turin, the same city in which he was born and lived most of his life.
Bobbio studied philosophy of law with Gioele Solari; he later taught this subject in Camerino, Siena, Padua, and ultimately back in Turin as Solari's successor in 1948; from 1972 to 1984, he had a chair in the newly created faculty of political science in Turin.
He was a National Associate of the Lincean Academy and longtime director (together with Nicola Abbagnano) of the Rivista di Filosofia. He became a Corresponding Associate of the British Academy in 1966; in 1979 he was nominated as Senator-for-life by Italian President Sandro Pertini. Bobbio received, among others, the Balzan Prize in 1994 (for Law and Political Science: governments and democracy) and doctorates honoris causa from the Universities of Paris (Nanterre), Madrid (Complutense), Bologna, Chambéry, Madrid (Carlos III), Sassari, Camerino, Madrid (Autónoma), and Buenos Aires.
To celebrate the centenary of Norberto Bobbio's birth, a committee was established, constituted by more than a hundred Italian and international public institutions and intellectual figures, which formulated a wide-ranging programme of activities to promote dialogue and reflection on the thought and figure of Bobbio, and on the future of democracy, culture and civilisation. Celebrations were officially opened on 10 January 2009 at the University of Turin.