Thursday, October 30, 2008
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the criminal society.
For other uses, see Mafia (disambiguation).
The Mafia (also known as Cosa Nostra) is a
Sicilian criminal secret society which is
believed to have first developed in the
mid-19th century in Sicily. An offshoot
emerged on the East Coast of the
United States and in Australia
during the late 19th century
following waves of Sicilian and
Southern Italian emigration
(see also Italian diaspora).
In North America, the Mafia
often refers to Italian organized
crime in general, rather than
just traditional Sicilian organized crime.
According to historian Paolo Pezzino:
"The Mafia is a kind of organized
crime being active not only
in several illegal fields, but
also tending to exercise sovereignty
functions – normally belonging to
public authorities – over a specific
The Sicilian Cosa Nostra is a loose
confederation of about one hundred
Mafia groups, also called cosche or
families, each of which claims sovereignty
over a territory, usually a town or village
or a neighborhood of a larger city, though
without ever fully conquering and
legitimizing its monopoly of violence.
For many years, the power apparatuses
of the single families were the sole
ruling bodies within the two associations,
and they have remained the real centers
of power even after superordinate bodies
were created in the Cosa Nostra
beginning in the late 1950s
(the Sicilian Mafia Commission).
Some observers have seen "mafia"
as a set of attributes deeply rooted
in popular culture, as a "way of being",
as illustrated in the definition by
the Sicilian ethnographer, Giuseppe Pitrè,
at the end of the 19th century:
"Mafia is the consciousness of one's
own worth, the exaggerated concept
of individual force as the sole arbiter
of every conflict, of every clash of
interests or ideas."
Many Sicilians did not regard these
men as criminals but as role models
and protectors, given that the state
appeared to offer no protection for
the poor and weak. As late as the 1950s,
the funeral epitaph of the legendary
boss of Villalba, Calogero Vizzini, stated
that "his 'mafia' was not criminal,
but stood for respect of the law, defense
of all rights, greatness of character.
It was love." Here, "mafia" means
something like pride, honour, or even
social responsibility: an attitude, not an
organization. Likewise, in 1925,
the former Italian Prime Minister
Vittorio Emanuele Orlando stated in
the Italian senate that he was proud
of being mafioso, because that word
meant honourable, noble, generous.
Information about this organisation was last updated on Wednesday, October 29, 2008.
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