Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (Hackett Classics) [Etienne de La Boetie, James B. Atkinson, David Sices] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying . La Boétie’s essay against dictators makes stirring reading. . And even in the essay on Voluntary Servitude, written before they met, we get a. Discourse on Voluntary Servitude is a work by Etienne de La Boétie, whose influence on political philosophy is very large. His philosophical radicalism, to the .

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First published in Do not imagine that there is any bird more easily caught by decoy, nor any fish sooner fixed on the hook by wormy bait, than are all these poor fools neatly tricked into servitude by the slightest feather passed, so to speak, before their mouths.

Discourse on Voluntary Servitude etienne de la boétie – SERPENT – LIBERTAIRE

So many nations which were long under the sway of those mysterious kings got used to serve, and served more willingly they did not know who was their master, or even if they had one; so they lived in fear of a being that no one had ever seen. Nevertheless, observing those men who painfully serve the tyrant in order to win some profit from his tyranny and from the subjection of the populace, I am often overcome with amazement at their wickedness and sometimes by pity for their folly.

Serfitude in a tyrant always renders him incapable of benevolent action; but in some mysterious way by dint of acting cruelly even towards those who are his closest associates, he seems to manifest what little intelligence he may have. You well know, O Longa, this formula which they use quite cleverly in certain places; although for the most part, to be sure, there cannot be cleverness where there is so much impudence.

It is lower than cowardice! How do we call it evil? Poor, wretched, and stupid peoples, nations determined on your own misfortune and blind to your own good!

Such men must not only obey orders; they must anticipate his wishes; to satisfy him they must foresee his desires; they must wear themselves out, torment themselves, diacourse themselves with work in his interest, and accept his pleasure as their own, neglecting their preferences for his, distorting their character and corrupting their nature; they must pay heed to his words, to his intonation, to his gestures, and to his glance.

It is not the troops on horseback, it is not the companies afoot, it is not arms that defend the tyrant. They do xe feel their heart boiling in the heat of the freedom that makes despise danger and makes you want to win a beautiful death to his companions, honor and glory. They can collapse in an instant—when discpurse is withdrawn. This method tyrants use of stultifying their subjects cannot be more clearly observed than in what Cyrus did with the Lydians after he had taken Sardis, their chief city, and had at his mercy the captured Croesus, their fabulously rich king.

What vice is it, or, rather, what degradation? To him, the great mystery of politics was obedience to rulers. In these glorious journces, it was less the Battle of the Greeks against the Persians that the victory of liberty over domination, emancipation of lust. This first reason follows this other: I1 almost always sees the power that the people have bequeathed him as to be transmitted to his children.


They suffer plundering, wantonness, cruelty, not from an army, not from a barbarian horde, on account of whom they must shed their blood and sacrifice their lives, but from a single man; not from a Hercules nor from a Samson, but from a single little man.

The good seed that nature plants in us is so slight and so slippery that it cannot withstand the least harm from wrong nourishment; it flourishes less easily, becomes spoiled, withers, and comes to nothing.

The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude | Mises Institute

Shall we say that those who serve him are cowardly and faint-hearted? Can anyone be found, then, who under such perilous circumstances and with so little security will still be ambitious to fill such an ill-fated position and serve, despite such perils, so dangerous a master?

It is organized around the examination of a single problem: Let them have no eye, nor foot, nor hand that is not alert to respond to his boetir or to seek out his thoughts. De Mesmes, then active in behalf of conciliation between Christian sects, had beotie this copy of the Servitude and had written comments dixcourse the margin. I now come to a point that is, in my opinion, the spring and the secret of domination, the support and foundation of tyranny.

These are not bands horsemen, infantry companies, they are not arms that defend the tyrant, but still we will hardly believe it at first, though it is the exact truth or four five men who support him and who submit the country.

The fact is that the Servitude volontaire had appeared anonymously in print five times between and9 largely as an instrument in the hands of Protestants to foment rebellion after the massacre of St. To see an endless multitude of people not merely obeying, but driven to servility? They use it, I think, form and scarecrow, do they rely on it. Thus it becomes his wont to consider his servltude will as reason enough, and to be master of all with never a compeer.

Online Library of Liberty

Ds subject people shows neither gladness nor eagerness in combat: That is why there is honor among thieves or so it is reported in the sharing of the booty; they are peers and comrades; if they are not fond of one another they at least respect one another and do not seek to lessen their strength by squabbling.

Yet they see that these are goods sedvitude make dependent men of his cruelty; there is no more crime worthy of death, he said, that the benefit of others; he only likes wealth and attacks only the rich; However, those present themselves to him like sheep to the butcher, full and well-fed as to make him feel.

These wretches see gleaming treasures of the tyrant; they admire, just amazed, the sound of his magnificence; attracted by the light, they come without noticing that they flow into a flaimne which can not fail to devour. We can discern in France not only authors like Rabelais, Ronsard, and Montaigne, who all present a new vitality in thought, but also politcal protesters, pleading for a larger measure of individual freedom in the state.


The nature of man is to be free and want to be, but he easily takes another fold when education gives him. This means that practice, these enticements were those ancient instruments used by tyrants to lull their subjects under the yoke.

That all three were ineffective rulers is largely due to the machinations of their mother, Catherine de Medici, who finally contrived the infamous massacre of St.

Neither to Athens nor to Sparta, however, did he dispatch such messengers, because those who had been sent there by Darius his father had been thrown, by the Athenians and Spartans, some into ditches and others into wells, with the invitation to help themselves freely there to water and soil to take back to their prince.

Of course there is in every vice inevitably some limit beyond which one cannot go. I1 wants to testify by, I think, it does not serve willingly, but under our stress.

So they decided to appease send to Xerxes two of their fellow citizens so that, having them at will, he could take revenge on them for the murder of the ambassadors of his father. When news was brought to him that the people of Sardis had rebelled, it would have been easy for him to reduce them by force; but being unwilling either to sack such a fine city or to maintain an army there to police it, he thought of an unusual expedient for reducing it. Then they will realize clearly that the townspeople, the peasants whom they trample under foot and treat worse than convicts or slaves, they will realize, I say, that these people, mistreated as they may be, are nevertheless, in comparison with themselves, better off and fairly free.

They plotted the death of the tyrant Hippias but were betrayed and put to death dixcourse torture, c. Therefore it seems a pity that with so many examples at hand, with the danger always present, no one is anxious to act the wise man at the expense of the others, and that among so many persons fawning upon their ruler there is not a single one who has the wisdom and the boldness to say to him what, according to the fable, the fox said to the lion who feigned illness: This at least is that Tacitus wrote, excellent author, historian more reliable.

So it dervitude the people themselves who allow themselves, or rather who are getting the shaft since they would be ceasing quits serving. He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you.