jeudi, janvier 23, 2014

L'esprit servile

Kenneth Minogue, The Servile Mind, 2010 :

At the end of a period of civil strife, as Tacitus tells us, Augustus Caesar established peace and security in Rome during the long period in which he ruled, ending in A.D. 14. Augustus carefully preserved the constitutional structures inherited from the republican period. Rome was still, in a sense, at the height of its power. When he died, however, the Romans discovered that a new system had quietly come into being: they had acquired a master. And what they also learned was that almost insensibly, over the long reign of Augustus, they had learned the moral practices needed for a sycophantic submission to such a figure.The fate of the Romans under Tiberius, who followed Augustus, was alarming beyond anything even imaginable in our time, but we should not forget the broader lesson: that over long stretches of time, the moral changes that take place only become evident in the light of some unexpected crisis. It is a lesson that ought to make us wary of our easy-going and liberated ways. Our world is infinitely benign, and we are in no immediate danger of falling into the distractions and treacheries that afflicted the early days of Rome under the Principate. But we should never forget that moral change never ceases, and it takes place below, and often deeply below, the surface of a culture.


The experience of both traditional societies and totalitarian states in the twentieth century suggests that many people are, in most circumstances, happy to sink themselves in some collective enterprise that guides their lives and guarantees them security. It is the emergence of freedom rather than the extent of servility that needs explanation.

Merci Curmu.

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