The Social Workings of the Sicilian Mafia, from its Beginnings to Today

Essay by IreeMamaUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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The Mafia has long fascinated our society, perhaps because there is something we find romantic about organized crime and the Mafioso. Popular culture has created an image of what a Mafioso is and engrained it into our perceptions, through movies and television. These popular culture portrayals do show some similarity to the real Mafia, but in order to truly understand this "organization" we must examine their origins. However, there is no straightforward story about the formation of the Mafia. One man did not simply form the Mafia and declare himself its Don. We must look at the history of Sicily in order to really understand how this island became a Mecca for corruption and crime. The lack of order in this Italian state made it vulnerable and, therefore, it was susceptible to takeover. However, the Mafia did not take over the Sicilian state in the traditional sense; they have used their power and influence to manipulate things in their favor, thereby "taking over" the island.

The entire history of Sicily is filled with violence and the Mafia, in name, is only a fairly recent phenomenon. However, the workings and philosophy of what we call the Mafia have long ruled Sicily.

The island of Sicily, located southwest of the Italian peninsula, was under foreign rule for over two thousand years before the Risorgimento unified Italy in 1860. These foreign influences contributed to the idea from outsiders that Sicily was "brutal, corrupt, and secretive," which gave rise to the myth of a "secret society" on the island in the 1860's. The island had long been a vital part of trade in the Mediterranean due to its prime location, and for this reason the Romans took Sicily after the first Punic war in the third century BCE. It was the Romans...