Sociology Index


The term 'mafia' was originally used to identify a specific ethnic Sicilian crime group or organization. The organized crime families have been glorified in films like Godfather. Sicilians did not regard these mafia men as criminals but as role models and protectors at a time the state appeared to offer no protection of the poor and weak. Now, 'mafia' is commonly used to identify the so called underworld drug cartels or any ethnic, regional or international crime group or organization. Mafia members are recruited in prison.

The mafia is a kind of organized crime being active not only in several illegal fields, but also tending to exercise sovereignty functions over a specific territory. Mafia Gang members who end up serving time in jail as adults often graduate to the toughest gang of all, the Mexican Mafia, or La Eme, a prison-based gang that controls drug sales in San Antonio. Joining the Mexican Mafia is equivalent to playing in the major leagues.

Drive-bys become planned executions, and drug sales and racketeering replace auto theft and vandalism.  Young street-gang members taking their first trip to the penitentiary often choose the hard-core gang lifestyle of the Mafia for the protection it offers in jail." - Texas Monthly, Audrey Duff.

Researching the Mafia has become easier with the increasing number of memoirs published by ex-mobsters detailing their careers in organized crime. This body of literature helps explain

1) why people become mobsters?

2) how the Mafia is structured, and

3) why so many maifiosi are breaking the mob's code of silence?

Mafia Memoirs: What They Tell Us About Organized Crime - Thomas A. Firestone.

Bureaucracy and the Mafia: An Alternative View 
Mark H. Haller - Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. Cressey's bureaucratic interpretation of organized crime families has been the dominant view of the subject. This paper reviews the problems associated with the bureaucratic definition and suggests some alternative viewpoints.

A game theoretic model is used to examine the dynamics governing repeated interaction between Mafiosi running extortion rackets and entrepreneurs operating fixed establishments. We characterize the conditions under which violence occurs. Entrepreneurs pay protection money to the Mafia because they fear the Mafia's ability to punish. However, the entrepreneurs' willingness to pay encourages opportunistic criminals (fakers) to use the Mafia's reputation and also demand money. As Mafia reputation is re-established, fakers have again an incentive to emerge, setting in motion a spiral of never-ending filtering and violence. We conclude that a world where mafias operate is inherently turbulent.

The 'Mafia Feeling': A Transcultural Theme of Sicily.
Franco Di Maria.

In this article, the Mafia feeling is analysed as an anthropological and cultural theme which through the family establishes personal and individual identity which needs set certainties. The presence of a code of certainties suggests the hypothesis that the Mafia feeling is structured on a specific cultural transpersonal level which guarantees the survival, the cohesion and the sense of belonging to the members of a subculture.

It is argued that, from the Group-analytic standpoint the Mafia feeling can be considered as a pre-thoughtful and dogmatic thinking which, beginning from a normal degree of dogmatism (adaptive dogmatism), flows through a matrix entirely saturated with meaning into a pathological dogmatism.

Annelise Anderson. 

Abstract: The mafia is a major feature of Russia's experience in making the transition to a market economy. This article inquires into the nature and origin of this phenomenon. The evidence suggests that the Russian mafia phenomenon is a direct outgrowth of the informal economy and related corruption that was a significant part of the economy of the Soviet Union.

Economists have usually concluded that the informal economy improved efficiency and consumer satisfaction in the Soviet economy. As aspects of this informal economy have developed into mafia activity, it has become less benign and is a possible threat to the success of the market economy in Russia because it threatens to defeat competition and thus the major benefit of a market economy.

An Economic Analysis of the Mafia
David Maddison, Marilena Pollicino. Abstract: This paper reviews the current economic thinking on the Mafia phenomenon. It distinguishes the Mafia from ordinary criminal gangs by the desire of the former for the exclusive right to commit criminal acts. The existence of the Mafia in particular locations at particular times is explained by the abdication of power or by the state's unwitting creation of illegal markets.

The Mafia's involvement in the supply of illicit goods is due to its ability to prey on common criminals, while its involvement in the supply of legal goods is in order to police anti-competitive agreements amongst businessmen. Contrary to common belief, there may even be instances in which the Mafia promotes public welfare. More research is required to explain the continuing popularity of the Mafia and to identify the social costs that make it worthwhile tackling the Mafia.