The secessio plebis, or ‘withdrawal of the commoners’, was a strategy of resistance employed by the plebeian citizens of Ancient Rome against the city’s ruling elite. On at least five occasions between 494 and 287 BC, the mass of the Roman populace downed tools and withdrew to the Mons Sacer and the Aventine, leaving the patrician order to fend for themselves. Bringing Rome to a standstill, this quiet act of civil disobedience effectively gave the citizens power of veto over their rulers.
In the work of Sorbonne sociologist Michel Maffesoli, from whose reading of the plebeian secession this website takes its name, the image of the Roman walkout appears as a metaphor for the prevailing spirit of the postmodern world. Understood in this way, it is not a political tactic, or a bargaining device, or demand to be heard. It is simply a life lived at a distance from the established and the official, a veneer of acquiescence to the edicts of power masking a tacit understanding that real life happens elsewhere. It is, in this sense, a symbol of the obsolescence of the grand theories of emancipation developed in the 19th century; the abandonment of modernity’s march towards the elusive utopia of the future, and the experience of our own utopias, here and now, in the gaps in the mainstream. All the signs, Maffesoli argues, “point to the retreat of the people onto their Aventine”.
This site was founded in the autumn of 2011 by a group of academics in France, Denmark and the United Kingdom working on themes associated with Maffesoli and his research center at the Sorbonne, the Centre d’Études sur l’Actuel et le Quotidien. It was envisioned as an English language portal for these ideas, hitherto not widely known in Anglophone academia, but it quickly developed into something much broader in scope. Most of us who work on the site today are not academics, and although the material we publish is often academic in its tone and subject matter, we are primarily interested in promoting writing that would not ordinarily be published in traditional peer-reviewed journals.
We publish on a rolling basis and we welcome unsolicited submissions. We have published work by emerging and established authors in a range of humanities and social science disciplines, covering subjects such as consumer tribes and subcultures, secret societies, urban sociology, and individual writers, artists, thinkers and groups whose ideas resonate with these themes. Above all, we aim to provide a platform for approaches to the study of social life neglected by the scientific mainstream. We publish essays, opinion pieces, theoretical and empirical articles, research and analysis papers, book reviews, and translations of relevant work previously published in other languages. For more information, or to pitch an idea, write to us at secessio[dot]eds[at]gmail.com