The Sicilian Mafia : the business of private protection


The Sicilian Mafia : the business of private protection

Diego Gambetta

Harvard University Press, 1993

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [315]-323) and index



Blood ceremonies, obscure symbols, elaborate codes, brutal executions: the arcane remnants of a defunct culture? The Mafia, this book suggests, is not nearly as bizarre as all that, not nearly as remote as we might think. In fact, as Diego Gambetta's analysis unfolds, the Mafia begins to resemble any other business. In a society where trust is in short supply, this business sells protection, a guarantee of safe conduct for commercial and social transactions. It grudgingly shares the market with other concerns like itself, of which it is merely the most successful brand name. The author develops his economic theory with ample evidence, much of it based on the remarkable work done by Judge Giovanni Falcons and his colleagues in Palermo and Agrigento in the 1980s. Drawing on the confessions of eight Mafiosi and the trials their revelations triggered, Gambetta is able to explain all manner of peculiar Mafia marketing strategies that have been endlessly misinterpreted in the past. He makes illuminating - and unexpected - comparisons between the business of protection and ordinary industries, such as automotive, insurance, and advertising. And he teases out the subtle distinctions between protection and extortion, in which the protector himself poses a threat. This approach reshapes traditional interpretations of the Mafia - its origins, functions, and social consequences. Applying the rational terms of economics, Gambetta shows how such a recognised evil can perform a real service, and how such a recognisable service can inflict great harm on society.

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