The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude is a major work of the 16th century which has had a huge influence on political philosophy from that time until our era. Written by Étienne de la Boétie when he was only 16 or 18 years old, this major work is a true Ode to Freedom that exposes all the strings of tyranny and totalitarian regimes and proposes solutions of counter-power.

We would like to remind you once again that we are only making a subjective presentation of this work. We simply give you our feelings and our analysis while offering you the possibility to share yours in the dedicated comment space at the bottom of this article. We always encourage intellectual honesty and always try to be as objective and transparent as possible with our readers. Our approach is based on openness and research, not ideology. The Conservative Enthusiast is a platform for learning but also for sharing and we always try to make ourselves accessible and available to our community. Only the search for the truth matters.With this introduction closed, let us discover this book together.

Why you have to read Discourse on Voluntary Servitude ?

In addition to being very well written and very accessible, this piece remains timeless. The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude opens the debate on the legitimacy of an authority exercised over a population and offers an analysis of the reasons that drive this population to obey, serve or even submit to it. Boétie highlights the way in which a power can be established and exercise authority over a population. His thesis says that (contrary to popular belief) servitude is never forced or imposed, but is in fact perfectly voluntary. The title "servitude" and "voluntary" is therefore not paradoxical but takes on its full meaning here. Servitude is therefore perfectly accepted by both sides, the tyrant and the people. Servitude being, to put it simply, a kind of social contract involving the adhesion of both parties.

Si beaucoup pensent que l’obéissance est nécessairement imposée par la force ou la restriction, il semble pourtant difficilement concevable qu’un si petit groupe puisse exercer une telle pression sur un ensemble de citoyens prêts à obéir aussi docilement. La force n’est pas un moyen viable à long terme pour asseoir une autorité du petit nombre sur le grand nombre. Les probabilités de voir éclater en son sein des révoltes ou des rébellions sont bien trop importantes. D’autres stratégies sont donc privilégiées et nous sont livrées directement par l’auteur.

The thesis developed by La Boétie, admittedly subversive, still resonates today as an appeal to individual and collective awareness, to question the principle of authority and to regain freedom.

Perceived by many as the preceptor of anarchism, La Boétie's libertarian critique demands that men reappropriate their capacity for self-management by setting laws and rules for themselves. Fighting for political autonomy thus sounds the death knell of servitude and domination.

In contrast toEdward Bernays who nearly four centuries later preferred to place his genius at the service of institutions, major industries and lobbies; La Boétie, as a profound humanist, put his knowledge at the service of the "people" and opted for the development of a free, autonomous, conscious and proactive civilization.

Reading this book is therefore essential to understand the mechanisms of domination and to be able to get rid of them.

My opinion

The period we are going through is particularly propitious for reflection, especially on the subject of our freedoms. Sacrificed on the altar of new ideals of health and political correctness, our liberties, wrongly taken for granted, seem to escape us one after the other without any real reaction.

Once again, La Boétie's thesis proves to be right again in our time. Our submission is indeed in the mind..

It is not the tyrant who seizes freedom, but the people who forsake it and agree to give it up. The first cause of servitude is therefore not the tyrant but the negligence of the people. A tyrant alone cannot exert sufficient pressure to make a majority of men bow their heads without them being resigned to conscious service. The tyrant is in place only through the servitude and obedience of the people. The people are inevitably responsible for putting themselves under trusteeship.

How then can it be explained that a free people can give up its freedom to the tyrant? Are people only meant to be free? Nothing allows the author to understand the reasons why people agree to give up their freedom. Laziness, cowardice, ignorance and an overabundance of comfort seem to me to be paths that would be wise to explore.

However, Boétie is trying to provide an answer to the phenomenon of permanent renunciation of freedom.

If force does not seem to be a lasting means of establishing domination, the tyrant must find other ploys to weaken and dominate the people.

La première étape est d’engourdir le peuple en le distrayant. La Boétie prend l’exemple des théâtres et des passe-temps ludiques qu’il condamne, les qualifiant de « drogueries » et d’instruments de tyrannie. Panem et circenses. Bread and circuses. Le peuple s’encombre l’esprit de distractions et détourne le regard du tyran. Distrait, engourdi, le peuple n’a même plus conscience que l’argent soutiré ne sert qu’à financer ce qui le drogue un peu plus chaque jour et le maintien dans son état de mort-vivant. La surconsommation et l’abondance de loisirs condamnant petit-à-petit le peuple, non mécontent de s’enfoncer dans sa propre servitude.

Any resemblance to our era is purely coincidental.

But the overabundance of fun and comfort cannot satisfy what the author describes as "well-born men". These clear-sighted minds, although in the minority, cannot be satisfied with these games for the ignorant without feeling the need to conquer, to build something great to live after them. The clear mind and knowledge they have allow them to remember and look back to understand and judge the present by anticipating the future.

Ceux-là représentent le véritable danger pour le tyran puisqu’ils résistent et refusent de céder leur liberté, l’ayant savourée pleinement et désireux de la conserver. Le tyran doit alors veiller à élaborer une nouvelle stratégie pour maintenir sa domination et convaincre les esprits les plus vifs. Une nouvelle fois, ce n’est pas la force qui est utilisée, bien au contraire. Ce que le tyran ne peut combattre, il l’achète. Ainsi, ces hommes éclairés se voient proposer l’opportunité de dominer d’autres à leur tour, devenant complices de la tyrannie, perdant dans le même temps leur propre liberté. Ces hommes corrompus se pensent généralement à l’abris de toute disgrâce, flattant leur maitre qu’ils aiment servir. En réalité, seul le tyran demeure libre, ce système pyramidal lui permettant d’asservir des sujets qui en asservissent d’autres à leur tour.

La peur est également un excellent moyen d’asservir le peuple et de dissimuler l’illégitimité du tyran. Un peuple qui a peur est vulnérable et bien plus manipulable, et finit par s’auto-soumettre au pouvoir en place.

Any resemblance to our era is purely coincidental.

Reclaiming freedom therefore requires resistance and the use of reason. Boétie does not encourage popular revolt but rather civil disobedience. He writes on this subject:

"Tyrants are only great because we are on our knees."

Let us bear in mind that no dictatorship is ever imposed. The ideal prison is a prison without bars:

"No one is more a slave than the one who believes himself free while being a slave. » Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Let's keep our eyes wide open.

« La dictature parfaite serait une dictature qui aurait les apparences de la démocratie, une prison sans murs dont les prisonniers ne songeraient pas à s’évader. Un système d’esclavage où, grâce à la consommation et au divertissement, les esclaves auraient l’amour de leur servitude. » Aldous Huxley


Welcome to Reconquest.

Welcome to The Conservative Enthusiast.

To go further: