The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (Discours de la servitude volontaire) is a 16th century French essay attributed to Étienne de La Boétie. It was first published in full after La Boétie's death (1563) in the third volume of Memoires de l'estat de France, sous Charles IX in 1576. It had appeared in part in 1574 in Latin and then translated to (middle) French in the Huguenot pamphlet Le Reveille-matin des François, et de leur voisins. According to La Boétie's friend Michel de Montaigne, who inherited his books and papers, the essay was written when La Boétie was 18-years old (c. 1548).
In the Discourse, the author wonders why people succumb so easily to tyranny or authority, when by refusing to serve they would become free and the despot would collapse like a large colossus missing its base. The author conjectures that tyranny is maintained because although only five or six persons support the ruler directly, these in turn are supported by hundreds and thousands more seeking favors.
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