Sixteenth century French judge and poet, author of Discourse on Voluntary Servitude
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  • Étienne de La Boétie

    Étienne or Estienne de La Boétie (1 November 1530 - 18 August 1563) was a French judge, writer, and "a founder of modern political philosophy in France". He "has been best remembered as the great and close friend of the eminent essayist Michel de Montaigne, in one of history's most notable friendships".


    1 Nov 1530, in Sarlat, France


    18 Aug 1563, in Germignan, France

    Web Sites

    Etienne de La Boétie | "Soyez résolus de ne servir plus, et vous voilà libres"
    Includes biography, bibliography, some related pictures and links to his works
    "Our two main objectives in creating these pages have been, first of all, to offer reliable information concerning La Boétie – his life and works. Secondly, it has been our wish to present this information in a way that is accessible to all persons that wish to learn more about the man and his writings."

    Web Pages

    Étienne de La Boétie |
    Includes links and short summaries to essays about La Boétie and an excerpt from Part I of the Harry Kurz translation of the "Discourse"
    "Étienne de La Boétie was a French jurist, poet, and political theorist who is best remembered as the subject of Michael de Montaigne's essay 'Of Friendship' and for his own essay 'The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude.'"
    Etienne de la Boétie | Mises Institute
    Includes biography, picture and, links to the text as well as audio recordings of La Boétie's "Discourse"
    "Étienne de La Boétie (1530–1563) is one of the seminal political philosophers, not only as a founder of modern political philosophy in France but also for the timeless relevance of many of his theoretical insights."
    Etienne de la Boétie - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes portrait, links to two versions of the Discourse and the complete works in French
    "Estienne de la Boétie (1530-1563) was a friend of Montaigne and made a name for himself with his poetry and translations of ancient Greek authors. He is perhaps better known today for his essay 'Discourse of Voluntary Servitude' where he explores why the majority too often willingly capitulates to the demands of a tiny ruling minority."
    Étienne de la Boétie | People | Foundation for Economic Education
    Includes short profile, picture and link to the "Discourse on Voluntary Servitude"
    "Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1563) was a French judge, writer, and a founder of modern political philosophy in France. He is best remembered as the great and close friend of the eminent essayist Michel de Montaigne, in one of history's most notable friendships."


    Étienne de La Boétie, Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Apr 2003
    Provides biographical background on La Boétie and begins examination of his "Discourse"
    "La Boétie did not believe that the state ruled primarily through force. For one thing, there were many more slaves than agents of the state: if even a small percentage of the populace refused to obey a law, that law became unenforceable. Moreover, most people obeyed without being forced to do so. La Boétie evolved an alternate explanation that he called 'voluntary servitude.'"
    Étienne de La Boétie, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, May 2003
    Examines major themes in the "Discourse": custom (habit), control of information, buying off the people and withdrawal of consent
    "If La Boétie is right, if freedom is a natural human urge, then nature itself argues the logic of not cooperating with tyranny. There is something within man and beast that resists the tension of a leash. Rather than break the tension by attacking those who hold the reigns, La Boétie told people to let the tension go slack. People should refuse either violence or submission. They should simply say No."
    Subjugating Ourselves, by Sheldon Richman, 7 May 2010
    Examines key passages from La Boetie's Discourse on Voluntary Servitude and criticises newspaper editorial writers (with a recent example) for preaching to the people to acquiesce and submit to government
    "In The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, the sixteenth-century French poet, judge, and political philosopher Étienne de La Boétie ... was establishing the undeniable but overlooked truth that in any political system the ruled vastly outnumber the rulers. Brute force cannot be the key to maintaining despotism because the subjects always hold the potential to overwhelm the prince. Actually, they need not do anything except stop acquiescing."
    The Politics of Étienne de La Boétie, by Murray N. Rothbard, 1975
    Introduction to the 1975 edition of The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, translated by Harry Kurz; summarises the key insights of La Boétie's work
    "La Boétie was also the first theorist to move from the emphasis on the importance of consent to one on the strategic importance of toppling tyranny by leading the public to withdraw that consent. Hence, La Boétie was the first theorist of the strategy of mass, nonviolent civil disobedience of State edicts and exactions. ... In such an age as ours, thinkers like Étienne de La Boétie have become far more relevant, far more genuinely modern, than they have been for over a century."

    Books Authored

    Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, 1576
    Electronic text of the 1942 English translation by Harry Kurz available at the Online Library of Liberty, in HTML, PDF and Kindle formats
    Oeuvres complètes d’Éstienne de la Boétie, 1892
    Partial contents: Introduction - Discours de la Servitude volontaire - La Mesnagerie de Xénophon - Les règles de mariage de Plutarque - Lettre de consolation de Plutarque à sa femme - Lettres - Poemata - Vers françois - Vingt-neuf sonnets

    The introductory paragraph uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.