Speech of the voluntary constraint
This text consists of a short indictment against the Absolutisme which astonishes by its scholarship and its depth, whereas it was written by an young man of hardly 18 years. This text raises the question of the legitimacy of all Autorité about a population and tries to analyze the reasons of the tender of this one (report/ratio “domination-constraint”).
The power subversive of the thesis developed in the Discours was never contradicted. Even if it would be anachronistic to qualify it Anarchiste, this thesis resounds still today in the reflection Libertaire on the principle of authority. The humanistic young person of Bordeaux sought an explanation to astonishing and tragic success that know tyrannies of its time. Deviating from the traditional way, Boétie pays its attention not on the tyrants but on the private subjects of their freedom. And it raises a disconcerting question: how can it be made that “ so much men, so much of boroughs, so much of cities, so much of nations sometimes endure a tyrant alone, who has power only that they give him? ”. So to avoid the censure, the examples are drawn from Antiquity, the reflection carries its time of course, in a country where the weight of the monarchical capacity is reinforced.
The originality of the thesis of Boétie is contained very whole in the paradoxical association of the terms “ voluntary constraint ” and “ ”. It establishes a model of the constraint thus, causes of its appearance to those of its maintenance which it is a question of establishing here.
A point of view: Boétie, by stating its speech, does not position as intellectual guide, nor like holder of the truth: those which affirm to hold the truth are in truth those which hold the control. What is true, it is the singular comprehension which one has of the text; to reach freedom, it is necessary not to be neither a Master nor slave. It is with a relativism skeptic that the Speech invites to think; question from point of view.
How a man manage does to dominate people?
the Malencontre: origin of the denaturation
Boétie discovers, by slip out of the History, that the company where the people want to serve the tyrant is historical, which it is not eternal and did not always exist, that it has a birth date and that something necessarily had to occur, so that the men fall from freedom in the constraint: “… which malencontre was that, which could so much denature the man, only born of truth to live frankly; and to make him lose the recollection of its first to be, and the desire to take it again? ”
Malencontre is a tragic accident, an inaugural bad luck of which the effects do not cease developing so much so that abolishes the memory of the front one, so much so that the love of the constraint replaced the desire of freedom. Boétie thus considers the passage of freedom to the constraint “ without need” and affirms that the division of the company between those which order and those which obey is “ accidental ”. What is indicated here, it is well this historic moment of the birth of the Histoire, this rupture fatal which in the history of humanity the birth of the State constitutes. However, this one is contingent, and not inevitable.
This fall of the company in the voluntary constraint of almost all with only one reveals a new man, who is not any more one man, not even an animal, since “ the animals… cannot accustom themselves to be useful, that with protest of a contrary desire… ”, this being difficult to name is denatured. Because the constraint is contrary with the state of nature: “ what there is of light and obvious for all, and which nobody could not deny, it is that nature, first agent of God, (…) we created all and ran, to some extent with the same mould, to show us that we all are equal, or rather brothers. ”
The state of nature would thus like that the companies are “levelling” where nobody could hold capacity on the others. I.e. opposite of the constraint which the people know. The first cause of the constraint is thus the lapse of memory of freedom, and the Coutume of living in a company hierarchical where reign the domination of the ones on the others. " The first reason of the voluntary constraint, it is the habitude" ; " the first reason for which the men are voluntarily useful, it is that they are born serfs and that they are high in the servitude".
It is well the people which forsakes freedom, and not the tyrant who takes it to him. Indeed, how to explain that the men not only resign themselves to the tender but, much more, are useful with their full assent? Thus certain men would be even ready to lose their life for the tyrant. Only the constraint of the man makes it possible to the tyrant to remain with the capacity, obedience is a precondition to violence.
Vis-a-vis the individual who subjected himself, Boétie refuses to oppose the good princes of the bad tyrants. What is essential indeed that the prince is of a pleasant or cruel naturalness: isn't it, in any case, the prince whom the people serve? “ If they arrive at the throne by various means, their manner of reigning is always about the same one. Those which are elected by the people treat it like a bull to overcome, the conquerors like their prey, the successors as a herd of slaves which belongs to them by nature. ”
With is the questions why Malencontre occurred? - why the denaturation of the man did take place? - why division did settle in the company? , Boétie does not answer. It concerns, stated in modern terms, the origin of the State. But nothing makes it possible the author to include/understand for which reasons the men gave up freedom. It tries on the other hand to bring an answer to the second question: how the renouncement of freedom can be durable, how the inequality reproduces it constantly?
Perenniality of tyranny like model of domination
will of tender
One of the reasons of this maintenance of the constraint is that the tyrants use several stratagems to weaken the people. Initially, the people are engourdi by the ludic theater and pastimes. Boétie condemns these " thus; Hardware stores ": the theaters, the plays, the jokes, the spectacles, the gladiators, the curious animals, the medals, the tables and other drugs of this species were for the ancients the soft foods of the constraint, the compensation of their charmed freedom, the instruments of tyranny. the tyrant entices his slaves to deaden the subjects in the constraint. He grants generosities to his people without this one realizing that it is with the money even tapped on its subjects that these entertainments are financed. They make sometimes, before committing their crimes, of beautiful speeches on the general good and the need for the law and order. Others use the artifice of the Religion to cause the fear of the sacrilege, using the tendency of the ignoramus to the Superstition. Boétie, in one century however marked by the wars of religion, distinguishes God from the capacity. The capacity is not divine origin, but comes well from the constraint of the men.
But the ideology, the pastimes ludic and the various superstitions can deaden only the " large populas" , and not " men well nés" and cultivated. Toujours is it certain which, prouder and inspired better than the others, feels the weight of the yoke and cannot prevent oneself from shaking it; who never subject to subjection (...) These having the understanding Net and the clear-sighted spirit, are satisfied, like the encrusted ignoramuses, to see what is with their feet, without looking at neither behind, nor in front; they point out on the contrary the things passed to judge the present more healthily and to envisage the future. It is those which having themselves the right spirit, still rectified it by the study and the knowledge. These, when freedom would be entirely lost and banished of this world, would bring back there; because feeling it highly, having enjoyed it and preserving its germ in their spirit, the constraint could never allure them, for so that one equipped it. Thus, even under a Totalitarian mode , there will be always to resist.
But the main reason is that part of the population puts at the service tyranny by cupidity and desire of honors. what I said up to now on the average employees by the tyrants to control forced, the habit to obey, the ideology, the plays or the superstitions, is hardly put of use by them but on the ignorant and coarse part of the people. Ainsi, if the tyrant wants to maintain his domination, it must find another stratagem for educated people. It is there the secrecy and the spring of the domination, the support and the base of any tyranny : to return these " people; complices" " cruautés" of the tyrant, to control them in their giving the opportunity to dominate of others in their turn. In fact thus the Courtisans are made the accomplices of tyranny, losing their own freedom at the same time. Certain men flatter their Master hoping for his favors, without seeing that disgrace necessarily watches for them, become accessory to the capacity. Thus is formed the social pyramid which allows to the tyrant “ to control the subjects the ones by the means of the others ”. The resistance and the use of the reason are thus the means of reconquering freedom (Boétie does not make any theory of the popular revolt) because the tyrants “are not tall that because we are with knees ”.
Tyranny is assimilated to a pyramid based on social control “ 5 or 6 had the ear of the tyrant. These 6 have 600 which profits under them, and which make their 600 what the 6 do to the tyrant these 600 maintains under them 6000 of them… ”. A majority has interest with tyranny then. The hierarchical structure of the capacity makes it possible to lock up the majority dominated into different intermediate sub-groups.
However, these courtiers are even less free than the oppressed people: the plowman and the craftsman, for so much controlled that they are, are free while obeying; but the tyrant sees those which surround it, coquinant and begging his favor. It is not necessary only that they do what it orders, but also that they think what it wants, and often even, to satisfy it, that they prevent also its own desires. It is not very to obey to him, it is necessary to take pleasure to him, one needs that they break, are tormented, get tired to treat its business and since they are liked only of its pleasure, that they sacrifice their taste to his, force their temperament and stripping it of their naturalness (...) is there to fortunately live? Is this to even live? (...) Quelle condition is more miserable than that of thus living not having anything with oneself and holding of another its ease, its freedom, its body and its life!
How to leave this constraint?
To leave this domination it is necessary to leave the practice. The man who knows freedom only gives up it constrained and forced. But those which never knew freedom “ are useful without regret and do voluntarily what their fathers would have done only by constraint. The first reason for which the men are voluntarily useful, it is that they are born serfs and that they are high like such. ” Like specifies it Boétie, “ one never regrets but one forever have ”.
It is not that the new man lost his will, it is that it directs it towards the constraint: the People, as if it were victim of a fate, of an enchantment, want to serve the tyrant. Indeed, for the author of the Speech, the domination of the tyrant holds only by the assent of the individuals. Without this assent, the domination would be nothing: “ be solved not to serve more, and to here you are free ”. The men are responsible for their constraint to the capacity. In a word, tyranny rests less on repression than on the voluntary dispossession of freedom.
For Boétie, freedom is not the object of the will, but desire (will) and freedom are confused: wish and you are free, because a desire which is not free is not conceivable, is not a desire. Freedom it is what we are, and if you are not free, it is that you gave up your desire. The central point of the domination is thus the refusal by ego, it I, to assume itself like freedom.
It is the principle of the civil Désobéissance which will be then began again of Henry David Thoreau with Gandhi. Boétie is one of its first theorists of a mode of action which it is necessary to distinguish from the rebellion, which it is active. Without the active support of the people, the tyrants would not have any capacity. Passive disobedience is enough to break the chains of the domination.
History of a work
They are the Protestants who them first, vis-a-vis persecutions, decided to publish it in 1574 under the name of Contr' one. This work constitutes an excellent prefiguration of the thought anti-absolutist which starts to be diffused in the kingdom. And after the Massacre of the Saint Barthelemy legitimately put for them the question of their relation to the tyrant and the need for releasing itself some. But this hastened edition prevented Montaigne (large friend of Boétie) to include it in its Essais which he had written like " écrin" for this speech, of fear of passing for a Calviniste and of discrediting work.
Boétie worked out a very original reflection for its time. Virulence of text (even if that is attenuated by the use of examples only drawn from Antiquity in order to protect its author), the little of occurrence with God in its reflection on the capacity, the concept of civil disobedience, is problems which will be taken again only well afterwards.
However, the reflection of Boétie was forgotten during several centuries, reappearing sporadically. He was even plagiarized under the French revolution by Marat in the Chains of slavery . It is only with the XIX° with Lamennais that the Speech of the voluntary Constraint is finally recognized like a major work. He was then taken again by authors like Simone Weil or Pierre Clastres, anthropologist who studied companies without official capacity, inspiring all those which did not finish being astonished that “ in the social balance, the gram overrode the kilo ”. Later, Wilhelm Reich, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari makes question of the voluntary constraint the central enigma of the political Philosophie, in particular in the Anti-Oedipus .
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