To Govern Is to Serve explores the practices of collective governance in medieval religious orders that turned the precepts of the Gospels—most notably that "the first will be last, the last will be first"—into practices of communal deliberation and the election of superiors. Jacques Dalarun argues that these democratic forms have profoundly influenced modern experiences of democracy, in particular the idea of government not as domination but as service.
Dalarun undertakes meticulous textual analysis and historical research into twelfth and thirteenth-century religious movements—from Fontevraud and the Paraclete of Abelard and Heloise through St. Dominic and St. Francis—that sought their superiors from among the less exalted members of their communities to chart how these experiments prefigured certain aspects of modern democracies, those allowing individuals to find their way forward as part of a collective. Wide ranging and deeply original,To Govern Is to Serve highlights the history of the reciprocal bonds of service and humility that underpin increasingly fragile democracies in the twenty-first century.
Preface Part One: The Servant Served
1. A Shocking Story
7. Paradox Part Two: Unworthiness in Power
1. Benedictine Beginnings
3. The Paraclete
4. Grandmont I: Facts
5. Grandmont II: Conjectures
7. Lesser Brothers I: Writings by and about Francis
8. Lesser Brothers II: Chronicles
9. Lesser Brothers III: About Face
10. Experiments Part Three: Maternal Government
1. Treasure Trove
3. A Note
5. Word by Word
Jacques Dalarun is a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres and the former director of the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (CNRS).
Sean L. Field is Professor of History at the University of Vermont.
Valerio Cappozzo is Associate Professor of Modern Languages at the University of Mississippi.
M. Cecilia Gaposchkin is associate professor of history at Dartmouth College.
A rich and stimulating essay.
~Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales
Jacques Dalarun delivers a reflection, personal and subtly argued, on the exercise of authority in certain medieval religious communities, a point of view which leads to an analysis of power relations in society. The style is fluid, the thought is sharp, and the dialectic quite formidable in its rigorous chain of thinking.
~Journal of Medieval and Humanistic Studies