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The Mafia is viewed by many people as a bunch of gangsters like those that they might see on movies such as Goodfellas, The Godfather, or Donnie Brascoe. In all actuality the Mafia represents much more than that, it is an entity within itself. The original Sicilian Mafia was just a group of families controlling certain territories in which they each laid claim to. These families were headed by a dominant male and were usually in competition with other families. The members of these families would engage into various "illegal and legal businesses with each other and outsiders" (Fiorienti and Peltzman 38). In the introduction to The Economics of Organized Crime, Fiorentini and Peltzman claim that between the years of 1860and maybe ranging all the way to 1957, the "Mafia was not a membership organization but a natural outgrowth of culture, politics and law enforcement" (Peltzman 38).
Many have tried to eliminate the Mafia from its’ "control" of the underworld and its’ stranglehold on politicians and government. Under the fascist movement in the late 20’s and 30’s of Cesare Mori, Mori tried to eliminate the Mafia in any way in which he could. This attempt at elimination was quite unsuccessful since the Mafia’s base was so far ranging. ""Arlachhi (1986 44-5) concluded in 1983 "there does not exist a centralized criminal organized called the Mafia… The cosca mafiosa is a simple organism but a solid one, without formalism or bureaucracy. Within it are neither statutory ordinances, initiation rites nor courts of judgment"" (Fiorienti and Peltzman 38). This is in contrast as to what others recognize as organized crime. In direct retrospect to his earlier writings, Arlacchi claims that, through interviews with Mafia members, there is a more formal organization within the Mafia and that the Mafia does have initiations.
The United States Mafia definitely was different than the Sicilian Mafia when trying to generalize them. The American Mafia consisted of only around 24 families whereas the Sicilian Mafia consisted of hundreds of families. These families were much larger than their Sicilian counterparts and that the families were most definitely organized and formal. " A detailed case-study of one of these families and its legal and illegal activities as of 1970 (Anderson, 1979) found that the Mafia family itself was not a firm; rather, its members entered into various businesses on their own account" (Fiorentini and Peltzman 39).
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The European Mafia was founded on a sense of loyalty and respect for culture, family and the Sicilian heritage. The Mafia was in existence in order to protect its’ member interests and grant them freedom in business in exchange for absolute loyalty and submission to the family as a whole. The Sicilian Mafia based their existence upon their strong beliefs that justice and honor are for oneself to take care of not for the government to control. Antithetical to this honor that is represented by the European Mafia, the American Mafia consists of more cold-hearted thieves and criminals. Although they based their organizational beginning around the model of the Sicilian Mafia, their actual actions do not coincide with the Sicilians. It seems as though the American Mafia sole purpose is to make money by whatever means possible.
When beginning to analyze the Mafia from and economic standpoint one can see that the Mafia came into existent as almost a capitalistic counterpart to what the government and society were providing.
The Mafia members see themselves as alternative providers of public services. Robert Claiborne states in his book Climate, Man and History (266-7) that "(t)he distinction between robber and cop, between extortion and taxation, has been blurred at many times in human history. A quote from the economists sums up the Mafia from an economic standpoint
Palermo’s chief prosecutor, Giancarlo Caselli, describes the Mafia…as a state within the state, ‘with its own territory, population and laws’…’The Mafia’s determination to establish itself as a state within the state is what makes it unique’ says Roberto Scapinato, one of 13 prosecutors committed full-time to Mafia enquiries. And the would be state not only imposes its own laws-at gunpoint-but levies its own taxes (21-2).
Herchel I Grossman in The Economics of Organized Crime analyzes the Mafia from this same economic standpoint as an alternative provider. He claims that the Mafia is not only trying to represent themselves as an alternative provider but to provide competition to the state on the "allocation of resources and distribution of income" (Fiorentini and Peltzmam 154). The Mafia’s competition with the state keeps prices good, because as long as the state’s resources are a viable commodity for a consumer , he Mafia’s competition with the state increases the provision of public services that are available and increases the income of whoever the consumer chooses to be his "representative producer" (Fiorentini and Peltzman 154)._
Some scholars of The Mafia consider it to not only be an underworld government so-to-say, but a business enterprise. Ralph Salermo, a former police officer ho published a study of organized crime in the late 1960’s stated that the Mafia was "highly organized" and he also went on to say that the Mafia modeled a "criminal confederation whose structure parallels that of a major corporation" (Salermo and Tompkins 85). This idea that the Mafia is modeled after a corporation is based on many different aspects that involve the Mafia’s internal structure. "First it assumes that the Mafia is like a corporation in that all its activities are planned and coordinated from a single power center" (Clark 1986). The "(b)oss preside(s) over and organization characterized by staff and line positions devoted to a rational search for profit. The Boss, then, was roughly like the CEO of a business corporation" (Rush 53). This is what makes up modern corporations. The decisions that are made by certain companies come from the hierarchy of the company. It is this way in the Mafia as well according to Cressy: "(d)esicion making (in the Mafia) is concentrated at the top of the hierarchy… a low-status member is expected to surrender his own will and authority to the authority of his superiors (and) place (himself) almost completely at the disposal of the rulers to be used as the latter see fit" (Cressey 125). Cressey also delves further into the matter claiming that just as every small aspect of a big business is coordinated with other small aspects, the same holds true for the Mafia (Rush 77). Advocates of the corporate model of the Mafia also claim that just as their are divisions of labor in any bureaucratic corporation, their is also "a high degree of functional specialization and division of labor" (Parsons 330) in the Mafia.
This view though might be slightly incorrect. Ex-members of the Mafia claim that they had to make their living the way in which they wanted to. One author even quotes a newly-made Mafia member as saying that after he was initiated, older members would constantly ask him if he wanted to join in burglaries and armed robberies and it was okay that he declined. His only duties were to be loyal and to bring money into the family in whatever way he could.