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NEWMAN, Saul. "Voluntary Servitude Reconsidered: Radical Politics and the Problem of Self-Domination"
Article published on 9 April 2011
last modification on 28 March 2011

by r-c.
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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.

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