The Will To Bondage/ Discourse on Voluntary Servitude

Étienne de la Boétie


Softcover book. 144 pages
ISBN: n/a
Stock Number: 0450

This classic of anti-statist and libertarian thought -- orig­inally entitled Discours de la Servitude volontaire -- is the best known and most enduringly influential work of Étienne de la Boétie (1530–1563), a French judge, writer and poet.

Written when he was a student in his early twenties, Boétie is regarded as the father of non-violent anarchism and civil disobedience. This short but powerful work has influenced some of the world’s greatest social thinkers, from Leo Tolstoy to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Ayn Rand.

James J. Martin, in his preface to this well-annotated edition, puts “this remarkable early libertarian treatise” in his­torical context. Edited, with annotations and an introduction, by Wm. Flyg­are. In English, with original French text on facing pages.

Humans are free by nature, says the author, who then asks the key question: Why do people consent to their own enslavement? “It is indeed the nature of the populace,” wrote Boétie, “to be suspicious toward one who has their welfare at heart, and gullible toward one who fools them. 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.” He also wrote: “There are almost as many to whom tyranny is profitable as there are to whom liberty would be agreeable.”

Gene Sharp, author of The Politics of Nonviolent Action, praised this work as “a highly significant essay on the ultimate source of political power, the origins of dictatorship, and the means by which people can prevent political enslavement and liberate themselves. The Discours should have a prominent place in the history of po­litical theory, and also of the development of the power anal­ysis in which the technique of non-violent struggle is rooted."

  • Model: 0450

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