La Boetie: Discourse on Voluntary Servitude

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 sixteenth century, is dizzying. Especially since the speech was originally circulated in manuscript form, but was never published by La Boétie.

The thesis of the Boétie is as follows: political regimes are based on fear, which is used to conceal the lack of legitimacy of the government. Thus, the people subjected to the self-government in place by simple habit, historical recurrence.

Etiene de la Boétie can certainly be considered the father of non-violent (or peace) disobedience. The central question in the speech is: How the freedom of nations can it turn against itself? How freedom can be alienated? One of the key ideas is that La Boétie the overthrow of regimes is essentially psychological: the people must stop believing its government. This theme of freedom returned greatly influence Rousseau in the Social Contract or Sartre whose thesis on bad faith is the ontological equivalent.

Summary of arguments of the Discourse on Voluntary Servitude:

– The power of tyrants is based only on the abandonment of people’s power.

– The tyrant is often a weak man, like any other. Only gullible can idolize.

– There is oppression of a volunteer.

– The people are responsible for their tutelage

– The use of reason will disappear among the people to be deceived and dominated.

– Tyrants create a power structure very elaborate, consisting of a multi-level hierarchy consisting of a conspiracy of accomplices.

The humanist call La Boetie is the Enlightenment, and is reminiscent of Kant’s essay On Enlightenment ?

Cite this article as: Tim, "La Boetie: Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, April 19, 2013, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 19, 2013,

Leave a Reply