Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 103-113

First online:

Sicilian cultures of violence: The interconnections between organized crime and local society

  • Amedeo CottinoAffiliated withDipartimento di Scienze sociali, Università di Torino

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The phenomenon of organized crime in Sicily has survived throughout all political changes and economic transformations that have taken place in Italy in the post war period. In search of an explanation, some scholars have blamed the absence of the State; some others have stressed the historically predatory relation between the State and the Southern regions; recently it has been argued that what makes Sicilian organized crime successful is the fact that it sells protection in a market characterized by an endemic lack of trust. Little attention instead has been paid to the cultural traits and, more specifically to the culture of violence which Sicilian criminality has in common with traditional Mediterranean society. In his investigation of the moral and legal system of a Sicilian criminal organization, the author shows how the same ideas of trust and honour and the notions of crime and of punishment can be found among Sicilian peasants and Sardinian herdsmen as well. This common heritage, which represents the historical memory of a world of material and moral deprivation, contributes to make vain any attempt to make an end to the war against Mafia by using repressive instruments. Other interventions, both at the material and cultural level, are wanted before the actual scenery may significantly change.