The Reading Room

The Best of the OLL No. 25: Estienne de la Boétie, “The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” (1552)

This is part of “The Best of the Online Library of Liberty” which is a collection of some of the most important material in the OLL. Boétie asks one of the most profound questions of political theory, why does the majority obey the commands of the small minority of people who run the state? His answer is that custom, education, state propaganda, and the promise of some material benefits encourage people to obey and to accept the legitimacy of their ruler.