Oeuvres de Etienne de La Boétie (French Edition)


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It served, in truth, no purpose at all at the time, though, one day, it might come to do so. This fundamental insight was that every tyranny must necessarily be grounded upon general popular acceptance. In short, the bulk of the people themselves, for whatever reason, acquiesce in their own subjection. If this were not the case, no tyranny, indeed no governmental rule, could long endure.

Hence, a government does not have to be popularly elected to enjoy general public support; for general public support is in the very nature of all governments that endure, including the most oppressive of tyrannies. The tyrant is but one person, and could scarcely command the obedience of another person, much less of an entire country, if most of the subjects did not grant their obedience by their own consent.

Why do people, in all times and places, obey the commands of the government, which always constitutes a small minority of the society?

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I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him. Surely a striking situation! Yet it is so common that one must grieve the more and wonder the less at the spectacle of a million men serving in wretchedness, their necks under the yoke, not constrained by a greater multitude than they Shall we call subjection to such a leader cowardice?

If a hundred, if a thousand endure the caprice of a single man, should we not rather say that they lack not the courage but the desire to rise against him, and that such an attitude indicates indifference rather than cowardice?

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When not a hundred, not a thousand men, but a hundred provinces, a thousand cities, a million men, refuse to assail a single man from whom the kindest treatment received is the infliction of serfdom and slavery, what shall we call that? Is it cowardice? When a thousand, a million men, a thousand cities, fail to protect themselves against the domination of one man, this cannot be called cowardly, for cowardice does not sink to such a depth. What monstrous vice, then, is this which does not even deserve to be called cowardice, a vice for which no term can be found vile enough. He makes clear also that this opposition is grounded on a theory of natural law and a natural right to liberty.

In childhood, presumably because the rational faculties are not yet developed, we obey our parents; but when grown, we should follow our own reason, as free individuals. For reason shows us that nature has, among other things, granted us the common gift of voice and speech. The weight of tyranny would quickly and suddenly collapse under such a non-violent revolution.

The Tory David Hume did not, unsurprisingly, draw similar conclusions from his theory of mass consent as the basis of all governmental rule. Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you?

Oeuvres Completes D'estienne De La Boetie (Ed.1846) (French Edition)

The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own? How does he have any power over you except through you?

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How would he dare assail you if he had not cooperation from you? Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces. Prominent among the anarchist advocates of non-violent resistance have been Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Benjamin R.


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Tucker, all of the nineteenth century, and all, unsurprisingly, associated with the non-violent, pacifist branch of anarchism. He seems to believe that man could live in a state of nature, without society and without government, and discovered that this situation would be filled with happiness for humanity.

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This dream is puerile. Tyranny does not depend, as many of the older theorists had supposed, on illicit means of acquiring power, the tyrant need not be a usurper. For although the means of coming into power differ, still the method of ruling is practically the same; those who are elected act as if they were breaking in bullocks; those who are conquerors make the people their prey; those who are heirs plan to treat them as if they were their natural slaves. Why do people continue to give their consent to despotism?

Why do they permit tyranny to continue? This is especially puzzling if tyranny defined at least as all personal power must rest on mass consent, and if the way to overthrow tyranny is therefore for the people to withdraw that consent. Apart from that, tyranny can only be initially imposed by conquest or by deception. The conquest may be either by foreign armies or by an internal factional coup.


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The deception occurs in cases where the people, during wartime emergencies, select certain persons as dictators, thus providing the occasion for these individuals to fasten their power permanently upon the public. It is true that in the beginning men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to.

This is why men born under the yoke and then nourished and reared in slavery are content, without further effort, to live in their native circumstance, unaware of any other state or right, and considering as quite natural the condition into which they are born Consent is also actively encouraged and engineered by the rulers; and this is another major reason for the persistence of civil obedience.

Various devices are used by rulers to induce such consent. One method is by providing the masses with circuses, with entertaining diversions:. Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.

Another method of inducing consent is purely ideological: duping the masses into believing that the tyrannical ruler is wise, just, and benevolent.

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Hence the assumption of despotism under the cloak of the old liberal form. It is pitiful to review the list of devices that early despots used to establish their tyranny; to discover how many little tricks they employed, always finding the populace conveniently gullible Specious ideology, mystery, circuses; in addition to these purely propagandistic devices, another device is used by rulers to gain the consent of their subjects: purchase by material benefits, bread as well as circuses. The distribution of this largesse to the people is also a method, and a particularly cunning one, of duping them into believing that they benefit from tyrannical rule.

They do not realize that they are in fact only receiving a small proportion of the wealth already filched from them by their rulers. Roman tyrants A man might one day be presented with a sesterce and gorge himself at the public feast, lauding Tiberius and Nero for handsome liberality, who on the morrow, would be forced to abandon his property to their avarice, his children to their lust, his very blood to the cruelty of these magnificent emperors, without offering any more resistance than a stone or a tree stump.

The mob has always behaved in this way--eagerly open to bribes Hence, their stake in despotism does not depend on illusion or habit or mystery; their stake is all too great and all too real.

Essayist Michel de Montaigne is one of the most accessible and widely read authors in world literature. His skepticism and relativism, and the personal quality of his writing, make him a perennial favorite among readers today. Montaigne's life and writings have drawn myriad interpretations. While some scholars of his work focus on the content of the writings to define the man, others stress his playful use of language. Montaigne's complex and multifaceted works provide fertile ground for exploring themes of wide-ranging significance within the field of literary theory, including the relationship between biography and theory; the critique of modernism; a critical history of the confessional mode of writing; sexuality and gender; and the theory of practice.

The essays in this collection move beyond the current stalemate in Montaigne criticism by revisiting questions about the role of theory in literary studies and by opening up a dialogue on the validity and limitations, or use and abuse, of theory in Montaigne studies. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. Yusuf rated it it was amazing Feb 11, Cristina Abrantes rated it it was amazing Jul 14, Ana rated it liked it Jul 02, Adenolia rated it really liked it Dec 19, Iakov Vargarovitch rated it it was amazing Nov 23, Cindy rated it really liked it Oct 31, Michel de Montaigne is currently reading it Sep 27, Otto Levi marked it as to-read Aug 06, Farah Tohme marked it as to-read Oct 16, Jasper marked it as to-read Jan 14, Bo Graham marked it as to-read May 21,

Oeuvres de Etienne de La Boétie (French Edition) Oeuvres de Etienne de La Boétie (French Edition)
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Oeuvres de Etienne de La Boétie (French Edition) Oeuvres de Etienne de La Boétie (French Edition)
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Oeuvres de Etienne de La Boétie (French Edition) Oeuvres de Etienne de La Boétie (French Edition)
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