A lesson still to be learned. The lasting modernity of Cesare Beccaria for the Italian and European legal orders

Most of the thinkers that have built the backbones of the rule of law cannot be defined as “jurists” in the strict sense of the term. Or, more to the point, to apply this definition to them is extremely limiting, if not completely wrong, in consideration of the extent of their reflections and interests. John Locke, Montesquieu, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill (and many others), even though many of them not “technicians of law”, forged some of the theoretical instruments that are indispensable even now to those engaged in constitutional law (from a technical point of view). Cesare Beccaria can certainly be included among these figures.

After the advent of the constitutional State, western legal systems have been keen to include the main lines of Beccaria’s thought among their fundamental principles (with regard to criminal law). Nevertheless, in the reality of many constitutional States, sporadic or structural aspects remain, which demonstrate how Beccaria’s lesson has not been completely learned; for this reason we must insist on its up-to-dateness, rather than simply collocating it among the noble relics of the history of thought.