Free People Who Choose to Serve
Around the middle of the sixteenth century, in his Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, Etienne de La Boétie provides a key to the despotism and its origins by analyzing the voluntary servitude as a conscious renunciation of political freedom in expectation of a private benefit. Such an interpretation has gone through several variations in the history of political thought and it still offers many issues for an explanation of the paternalistic degeneration of democracy. As many others philosophers affirmed – from Plato to Tocqueville, passing through Aristotle, Polybius and Constant – the free choice of a «protector» could be the outcome of an anthropological weakening determined by the democratization processes of society. The consequence is a theoretical challenge to democracy as a space of expression of the autonomous subject. Before the seduction exercised by the paternalistic powers, we need primarily to shift the focus from «father» to «children», from the master to the free subject who chooses to serve, to investigate the role that political apathy, conformism, immediate satisfaction of private wealth can play in the loss of democracy and the fall of the subject. Secondly, we need to enquire how representative democracy can continue to provide the conditions for the projection of individual existence in a political dimension.
Keywords: paternalism, voluntary servitude, freedom, democracy
parole chiave: paternalismo, servitù volontaria, libertà, democrazia