A history and internal analysis of the workings of the Mafia

Essay by ashannatarHigh School, 12th gradeA-, October 2007

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The Sicilian Mafia is essentially a criminal organization. Even though its roots are embedded in the Sicilian feudal system of the Middle Ages, it is a product of the opportunities and the new freedoms that came with the unification and modernization of the Italian nation in 1862. In the feudal system, the land owning class controlled the economic resources and there was little opportunity for the lower classes to be upwardly mobile in the pursuit of land and status�. With the breakup of these feudal estates at the time when Sicily was forced to become a part of the new Italian nation, the lower classes seized the moment and embarked on a chaotic grab for land. Bandits terrorized the country intent on murdering the government troops, criminal gangs wrestled control of the sale and rental of land by installing fellow members as guards on the land around Palermo. Many Sicilians with their clannish nature, their instinctive dislike for inconsistent law enforcement and a repressive hereditary aristocracy, created a favourable climate for the Mafia to flourish.�

The word "mafia" entered the Italian vernacular at this time to describe the organised crime that existed in Sicily. Void of an established legal system or public administration, violence became the best way to increase one's personal wealth as there was little response in the way of retribution. The Mafiosi would also represent the interests of an ordinary farmer or tradesman who paid them well to settle a score or reconcile a perceived injustice. Hence the Mafiosi as 'Robin Hood' type characters, or chivalrous knights became the popular perception. From being 'friends of the friends', the more important Mafiosi became known as "men of honour". The Mafia's code of honour, despite its apparent internal coherence, was and is the antithesis of any code of chivalry...