NEWMAN, Saul. "Voluntary Servitude Reconsidered: Radical Politics and the Problem of Self-Domination"

NEWMAN, SaulPower — dominationLA BOÉTIE, Étienne de (Sarlat, 1er novembre 1530 – 18 août 1563 à Germignan, Taillan-Médoc, près de Bordeaux)

Author’s Abstract

In this paper I investigate the problem of voluntary servitude — first

elaborated by Etienne de la Boëtie — and explore its implications for

radical political theory today. The desire for one’s own domination

has proved a major hindrance to projects of human liberation such

as revolutionary Marxism and anarchism, necessitating new understandings

of subjectivity and revolutionary desire. Central here, as I

show, are micro-political and ethical projects of interrogating one’s

own subjective attachment to power and authority — projects elaborated,

in different ways, by thinkers as diverse as Max Stirner, Gustav

Landauer and Michel Foucault. I argue that the question of voluntary

servitude must be taken more seriously by political theory, and that

an engagement with this problem brings to the surface a countersovereign

tradition in politics in which the central concern is not

the legitimacy of political power, but rather the possibilities for new

practices of freedom.