Secrecy is one of the defining characteristics of the Italian Mafia. Wiretaps, financial records, and the rare informant occasionally reveal its inner workings, but these impressions are all too often spotty and fleeting, hampering serious scholarship on this major form of criminal activity. During her years as a consultant to the Italian government agency responsible for combating organized crime, Letizia Paoli was given unparalleled insider access to the confessions by pentiti (literally, repentants), former Mafia operatives who had turned. This mafia hard core came primarily from the two largest and most influential Southern Italian mafia associations, known as Cosa Nostra and Ndrangheta, each composed of about one hundred mafia families. The sheer volume of these confessions, numbering in the hundreds, and the detail they contained, enabled the Italian government to effectively break up the Italian mafia in one of the dramatic law enforcement successes in modern times. It is on these same documents that Paoli draws to provide a clinically accurate portrait of mafia behavior, motivations, and structure. Puncturing academic notions of a modernized Mafia, Paoli argues that to view mafia associations as bureaucracies, illegal enterprises, or an industry specializing in private protection, is overly simplistic and often inaccurate. These conceptions do not adequately describe the range of functions in which the mafia engages, nor do they hint at the mafias limitations. The mafia, Paoli demonstrates are essentially multifunctional ritual brotherhoods focused above all on retaining and consolidating their local political power base. It is precisely this myopia that has prevented these organizations from developing the skills needed to be a successful and lasting player in the entrepreneurial world of illegal global commerce. A truly interdisciplinary work of history, politics, economics, and sociology, Mafia Brotherhoods reveals in dramatic detail the true face of one of the worlds most mythologized criminal organizations.
- Publication Date:
- 23 / 10 / 2003