Étienne de LA BOÉTIE avec DISCOURSE ON VOLUNTARY SERVITUDE - DISCOURS DE LA SERVITUDE VOLONTAIRE et ses annexes : FRENCH-ENGLISH BILINGUAL ANNOTATED VERSION
This edition presents in French-English bilingual version:
- Le Discours de la servitude volontaire, (ou le Contr'un)
- Le Mémoire inédit touchant l'Edit de janvier 1562
- La Lettre de Montaigne au sujet de la maladie et de la mort de M. de La Boétie
- Introduction et notes - références de Paul Bonnefon
- Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, (or The Anti-Dictator), with an introduction about its reception.
Étienne de la Boétie is a French translator from the Greek, and political thinker, known chiefly through the friendship of Montaigne for him.
His youthful Discours de la Servitude Volontaire, or Contr'un is a democratic declamation, the first republican protest to spring from the French Renaissance.
"La Boétie's essay against dictators makes stirring reading. A clear analysis of how tyrants get power and maintain it, its simple assumption is that real power always lies in the hands of the people and that they can free themselves from a despot by an act of will unaccompanied by any gesture of violence. The astounding fact about this tract is that in 1948 it will be four hundred years old. One would seek hard to find any writing of current times that strips the sham from dictators more vigorously. Better than many modern political thinkers, its author not only reveals the contemptible nature of dictatorships, but he goes on to show, as is aptly stated by the exiled Borgese "that all servitude is voluntary and the slave is more despicable than the tyrant is hateful." No outraged cry from the past or present points the moral more clearly that Rome was worthy of her Nero, and by inference, Europe of her present little strutters and the agony in which they have engulfed their world. So appropriate to our day is this courageous essay that one's amazement is aroused by the fact that a youth of eighteen really wrote it four centuries ago, with such far-sighted wisdom that his words can resound today as an ever-echoing demand for what is still dearest to mankind.
Between 1560 and 1598 there were many outbreaks of religious war in France. Three brothers were crowned kings of France during this time, Francis II (1559-1560), Charles IX (1560-1574), and Henry III (1574-1589). 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. Bartholomew's Day, 1572. It was only after the Bourbon Henry IV abjured his Protestant faith a second time and entered Paris that some semblance of order was gradually restored, eventuating in the famous Edict of Nantes, 1598, that granted freedom of worship in the realm. Such was the period during which the Servitude Volontaire was to play an extraordinary role.
In the twentieth century, many European anarchists began to cite La Boétie as an influence, including Gustav Landauer, Bart de Ligt, and Simone Weil. Also autonomist marxist thinker John Holloway cites him in his book Crack Capitalism in order to explain his idea of "breaking with capitalism". Gene Sharp the leading theorist of nonviolent struggle cites his work frequently in both "The Politics of Nonviolent Action" and "From Dictatorship to Democracy".