La Boétie, The Nature of Tyranny: A Discourse on Voluntary Servitude

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La Boétie
Translated by George Tombs

Étienne de La Boétie (1530-1563) was a Renaissance man from the south of France, devoting his life to poetry, law, political philosophy and facilitating negotiations between Catholics and Protestants during the French Wars of Religion. In this powerful work, La Boétie shows that tyrants don’t maintain power simply by force. They depend on networks of accomplices – enablers – who profit directly from crushing the people. And tyrants maintain power when the people, who have lost a taste for liberty, or never knew it, willingly surrender to authority. La Boétie’s work on obedience and domination has renewed relevance, at a time when tyrannies around the world are ever more powerful, and liberal democracies are under attack.