The Legacy of Étienne de la Boétie

The Legacy of Étienne de la Boétie

(Pronounced boy-see)

1548: Étienne de La Boétie (1530–1563) writes the Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, or The Anti-Dictator, stating that tyrants can rule only through our voluntary consent and that we can dispose of them by withdrawing that cooperation if we so choose.


1908: Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) revives Boétie’s doctrine and influences Mahatma Gandhi’s thought when he asks Tarak Nath Das (editor of the newspaper Free Hindustan) in A Letter to a Hindu, “Do not the figures make it clear that it is not the English who have enslaved the Indians, but the Indians who have enslaved themselves?”


1955: The Urantia revelation, published as The Urantia Book, claims that unlimited national sovereignty must give way to the collective sovereignty of humanity as a whole if we wish to end war on Earth. It also affirms yet evolves the traditional idea of enlightenment that states, “all is one,” to recognize that we are each unique selves creating potential eternal souls through the melding of the ultimate personality of Spirit with our temporal personality arising at birth.


1993: Gene Sharp (b. 1928), founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of nonviolent conflict, writes the manual From Dictatorship to Democracy, which has been used around the world by people to overthrow dictators and bring forth freer and more democratic societies.

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People Power, Civil Resistance, and Social Transformation: An Introduction to Nonviolent Conflict
The Boétie Legacy, and a World in Peril
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