Full Text

Mafia, organized crime, and social protest

Paolo Pezzino

Subject History

Place Europe » Southern Europe

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899

Key-Topics criminal justice, revolution, society, taxation, violence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00954.x


Some social scientists and historians who have studied the activity of the Mafia have shown it to be not simply organized crime, but rather a collective social behavior that, while deviant to state laws, nonetheless responds to cultural honor and community social codes. Indeed, historian Eric Hobsbawm has depicted the Mafia as a primitive form of social protest. This image of the Mafia, widely reflected in the mass media, has no foundation in reality. Historical research has demonstrated, on the contrary, that the role of the code of honor has been, and still is, that of a compact among a violent elite against the external world. In the context of Mafia action, the honor of the Mafioso and omertà (conspiracy of silence) appears not as widespread subculture, but rather as a set of behaviors forcefully commanded by the violent elite, in a game in which Mafiosi and ruling classes both manipulate cultural codes to gain social and political dominance. The origin of the Sicilian Mafia has not yet been completely elucidated by historical research. Criminal associations can be traced to the period before unification, although they were not named Mafia, a term that took hold only in the first years after unification. Judicial chronicles recount the existence in villages of strange groups of persons, organized along sectarian lines, that profited from the corruption and inefficiency ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top