The Prophetic Task of Legal Thought
Thursday, October 16
Barat House, Boston College Law School
with Roberto Unger,
Roscoe Pound Professor of Law at Harvard Law School
Part of the Clough Distinguished Lectures in Jurisprudence.
watch the event
about the speaker
Roberto Mangabeira Unger is a renowned theorist whose political activity helped bring about democracy in Brazil in the 1980s. Successfully bridging the gap between theory and politics in both the United States and Brazil, he is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading public intellectuals.
Raised in both the United States and Brazil, Unger subsequently studied law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and completed his LL.M. at Harvard Law School. Due to political upheaval in Brazil, he was invited to stay at Harvard in the S.J.D. program. Unger first received recognition with the publication of his books Knowledge and Politics and Law in Modern Society in 1975 and 1976, respectively. At the same time, he became one of the youngest tenured faculty members at Harvard Law School at just 29 years old. His scholarship—which encompasses social theory, legal thought, economics, and philosophy—has focused on how to empower humanity. Through it, Unger has emphasized the need for experimentation and revision as an alternative to institutionalized social, political, and economic activity.
Unger became involved in Brazilian politics in the 1970s, when he emerged as one of the ideological leaders opposing the country’s military dictatorship. Following Brazil’s democratization, he has served as an adviser to two presidential candidates, headed a state-run foundation for homeless children, and launched his own exploratory bids for the presidency in 2000 and 2006. His political activity culminated in his appointment from 2007 to 2009 as the Brazilian Minister of Strategic Affairs under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a position that allowed him to push for a broadening of the middle class through an expansion of credit to smaller producers. Since then, Unger has focused his political work on the northwestern Brazilian state of Rondônia, where he is heading efforts to modernize farming techniques and to transform education from rote learning to creative engagement.