Start your review of The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection Write a review Shelves: influenced-me A look at the history, organization and economics of the mafia -- particularly in its Sicilian variety, but with some comparisons with the American families. Sometimes this has socially positive cast to it -- the A look at the history, organization and economics of the mafia -- particularly in its Sicilian variety, but with some comparisons with the American families. Sometimes this has socially positive cast to it -- the mafia really do suppress many kinds of crime in Sicily. More often, though, the protection the mafia offer is protection from competition. For example, the Palermo fish market -- one of the major fish markets in a major maritime region -- for a long time had only a handful of middlemen. Potential new entrants were advised that entering the business would be hazardous to their health.

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Etymology[ edit ] The word mafia originated in Sicily. The Sicilian adjective mafiusu in Italian: mafioso roughly translates to mean " swagger ," but can also be translated as "boldness, bravado ". In reference to a man, mafiusu in 19th-century Sicily was ambiguous, signifying a bully, arrogant but also fearless, enterprising and proud, according to scholar Diego Gambetta. The Sicilian word mafie refers to the caves near Trapani and Marsala , [6] which were often used as hiding places for refugees and criminals.

Sicily was once an Islamic emirate , therefore mafia might have Arabic roots. In Islamic law, Jizya is the yearly tax imposed on non-Muslims residing in Muslim lands. Those who pay it are "exempted" from prosecution. The word was first documented in in a report by the prefect of Palermo Filippo Antonio Gualterio it. But Giovanni Falcone , the anti-Mafia judge who was murdered by the Mafia in , had objected to the conflation of the term "Mafia" with organized crime in general: While there was a time when people were reluctant to pronounce the word "Mafia" I am no longer willing to accept the habit of speaking of the Mafia in descriptive and all-inclusive terms that make it possible to stack up phenomena that are indeed related to the field of organised crime but that have little or nothing in common with the Mafia.

Senate Committee on Government Operations in at what are known as the Valachi hearings. In , Mafia turncoat Tommaso Buscetta revealed to anti-mafia Italian magistrate Giovanni Falcone that the term was used by the Sicilian Mafia, as well. Mafiosi are known among themselves as "men of honour" or "men of respect". Socio-economic definitions[ edit ] In , Leopoldo Franchetti described the Mafia as an "industry of violence". In , the Italian sociologist Diego Gambetta called it a "cartel of private protection firms".

The core business of the Mafia is protection racketeering , i. The Mafia does not serve the general public as the police do, but only specific clients who pay them for protection. Rather, it is a cartel of independent criminal gangs who sell their services under a common brand.

This cartel claims the exclusive right to sell extralegal protection services within their territories, and by their labels man of honor, mafioso, etc. Hence the term mafia found a class of violent criminals ready and waiting for a name to define them, and, given their special character and importance in Sicilian society, they had the right to a different name from that defining vulgar criminals in other countries.

Gambetta wrote that Sicily in the early s had "no clear property rights legislation or administrative or financial codes of practice", and that its court system was "appalling" in its inefficiency. Gambetta recommended that the government liberalize the drug market and abolish price-fixing of cigarettes so as to move these commodities out of the black market; to increase transparency in public contracting so that there can be no rigging, which mafiosi usually arbitrate; and redesign the voting process to make it harder to buy votes.

Fixing these problems would reduce the demand for mafioso intervention in political and economic affairs. On the other hand, the same word in Sicily can also indicate, not a special organization, but the combination of many small organizations, that pursue various goals, in the course of which its members almost always do things which are basically illegal and sometimes even criminal.

Judicial investigations and scientific research in the s provided solid proof of the existence of well-structured Mafia groups with entrepreneurial characteristics. The Mafia was seen as an enterprise, and its economic activities became the focus of academic analyses. The economic approach to explain the Mafia did illustrate the development and operations of the Mafia business, but neglected the cultural symbols and codes by which the Mafia legitimized its existence and by which it rooted itself into Sicilian society.

The Mafia is all of these but none of these exclusively. They have been known to spread deliberate lies about their past, and sometimes come to believe in their own myths. Under feudalism, the nobility owned most of the land and enforced the law through their private armies. After , the feudal barons steadily sold off or rented their lands to private citizens.

Primogeniture was abolished, land could no longer be seized to settle debts, and one fifth of the land became private property of the peasants. The result was a huge increase in the number of landowners — from 2, in to 20, by The barons released their private armies to let the state take over the job of enforcing the law, but the new authorities were not up to the task, largely due to clashes between official law and local customs.

Some towns did not have any permanent police force, and were only visited every few months by some troops to collect malcontents, leaving criminals to operate with impunity in the interim. Rising food prices, [35] the loss of public and church lands, [34] and the loss of feudal commons pushed many desperate peasants to steal.

In the face of rising crime, booming commerce, and inefficient law enforcement, property owners turned to extralegal arbitrators and protectors. These extralegal protectors eventually organized themselves into the first Mafia clans. In countryside towns that lacked formal constabulary, local elites responded to banditry by recruiting young men into "companies-at-arms" to hunt down thieves and negotiate the return of stolen property, in exchange for a pardon for the thieves and a fee from the victims.

Towns with Mafia activity are marked as red dots. The Mafia operated mostly in the west, in areas of rich agricultural productivity. The Mafia was and still is a largely western Sicilian phenomenon. There was little Mafia activity in the eastern half of Sicily. This did not mean that there was little violence; the most violent conflicts over land took place in the east, but they did not involve mafiosi.

They maintained their large stables of enforcers and were able to absorb or suppress any emerging violent groups.

The owners of such estates needed to hire full-time guardians. It was cheaper for these estates to contract their protection to a mafioso rather than employing full-time guards. A mafioso in these regions could protect multiple small estates at once, which gave him great independence and leverage to charge high prices.

Citrus plantations had a fragile production system that made them quite vulnerable to sabotage. This "sect" was mostly rural, composed of cattle thieves, smugglers, wealthy farmers, and their guards. It is a sect with little or no fear of public bodies, because its members believe that they can easily elude this. An dispatch from the prefect of Palermo to Rome first officially described the phenomenon as a "Mafia".

At this period in history, only a small fraction of the Sicilian population could vote, so a single mafia boss could control a sizable chunk of the electorate and thus wield considerable political leverage.

Given the highly fragmented and shaky Italian political system, cliques of Mafia-friendly politicians exerted strong influence. The Mafia also maintained funds to support the families of imprisoned members and pay defense lawyers. The combination of a weak state and a lootable natural resource made the sulphur-rich parts of Sicily vulnerable to the emergence of mafia-type organisations.

A valuable natural resource in areas where law enforcement is weak or absent creates a demand for private protection which mafia-type organizations can supply and opportunities for extortion also by mafia-type organizations. In an environment with weak state presence, this socialist threat triggered landowners, estate managers and local politicians to turn to the Mafia to resist and combat peasant demands. The Mafia threatened and undermined his power in Sicily, and a successful campaign would strengthen him as the new leader, legitimizing and empowering his rule.

What do you need all these cops for? Mussolini felt humiliated and outraged. Mussolini firmly established his power in January ; he appointed Cesare Mori as the Prefect of Palermo in October and granted him special powers to fight the Mafia. To force suspects to surrender, they would take their families hostage, sell off their property, [61] or publicly slaughter their livestock. Some mafiosi who had been on the losing end of Mafia feuds voluntarily cooperated with prosecutors, [64] perhaps as a way of obtaining protection and revenge.

Charges of Mafia association were typically leveled at poor peasants and gabellotti farm leaseholders , but were avoided when dealing with major landowners. He did not permanently crush the Mafia as the Fascist press proclaimed, but his campaign was very successful at suppressing it. As Mafia informant Antonino Calderone reminisced: "The music changed. Mafiosi had a hard life. The Sicilian Families had all been broken up. Post-Fascist revival[ edit ] In , nearly half a million Allied troops invaded Sicily.

Crime soared in the upheaval and chaos. Many inmates escaped from prisons, banditry returned, and the black market thrived. Mafia bosses reformed their clans, absorbing some of the marauding bandits into their ranks.

The Minister of Agriculture — a communist — pushed for reforms in which peasants were to get larger shares of produce, be allowed to form cooperatives and take over badly used land, and remove the system by which leaseholders known as " gabelloti " could rent land from landowners for their own short-term use.

The Mafia had connections to many landowners and murdered many socialist reformers. The most notorious attack was the Portella della Ginestra massacre , when 11 people were killed and 33 wounded during May Day celebrations on May 1, The bloodbath was perpetrated by bandit Salvatore Giuliano , who was possibly backed by local Mafia bosses. Cuba , a major hub for drug smuggling, was taken over by Fidel Castro and associated communists. In American mafia boss Joseph Bonanno returned to Sicily to franchise his heroin operations to the Sicilian clans.

Anticipating rivalries for the lucrative American drug market, he negotiated the establishment of a Sicilian Mafia Commission to mediate disputes. Allied bombing in World War II had left more than 14, people homeless, and migrants were pouring in from the countryside, [83] so there was a huge demand for new homes.

Much of this construction was subsidized by public money. Between and , about 80 percent of building permits were given to just five people, none of whom represented major construction firms; they were likely Mafia frontmen. Mafiosi scared off anyone who dared to question the illegal building.

The result of this unregulated building was the demolition of many historic buildings and the erection of apartment blocks, many of which were not up to standard. Mafia organizations entirely control the building sector in Palermo — the quarries where aggregates are mined, site clearance firms, cement plants, metal depots for the construction industry, wholesalers for sanitary fixtures, and so on.

The cement business was appealing because it allows high levels of local economic involvement and is a good front for illegitimate operations. The Sicilian Mafia has a long history of violent rivalries. In , mafia boss Cesare Manzella organized a drug shipment to the United States with the help of two Sicilian clans, the Grecos and the La Barberas. Manzella entrusted another boss, Calcedonio Di Pisa , to handle the heroin. When the shipment arrived in the United States, however, the American buyers claimed that some heroin was missing, and paid Di Pisa a commensurately lower sum.

Di Pisa accused the Americans of defrauding him, while the La Barberas accused Di Pisa of embezzling the missing heroin. In April , several bystanders were wounded during a shootout in Palermo. In June, six military officers and a policeman in Ciaculli were killed while trying to dispose of a car bomb. These incidents provoked national outrage and a crackdown in which nearly 2, arrests were made.

Mafia activity fell as clans disbanded and mafiosi went into hiding. The Sicilian Mafia Commission was dissolved; it did not re-form until The most lucrative racket of the s was cigarette smuggling.

Heroin refineries operated by Corsican gangsters in Marseilles were shut down by French authorities, and morphine traffickers looked to Sicily.


The Sicilian Mafia

He tried to understand the entity. The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection by Diego Gambetta This new approach reshapes traditional interpretations of the Mafia — its origins, functions, and social consequences. Books by Diego Gambetta. Spanish translation, in J.


Diego Gambetta

Career[ edit ] In Gambetta received his PhD in social and political sciences from the University of Cambridge , where his doctoral supervisor was the late social statistician Cathie Marsh. From until he was reader in sociology at the University of Oxford and fellow of All Souls College. In , he was awarded a Title of Distinction as professor of sociology and in he became an official fellow of Nuffield College. In he was elected a fellow of the British Academy. Analysis[ edit ] In his book "The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection" published by Harvard University Press in , he brings a new perspective on an extralegal institution like the Mafia by underscoring the market demand for protection that it satisfies and by showing how mafiosi apparently outlandish rituals and behaviours make organisational sense.


Sicilian Mafia





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