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5.0 out of 5 stars The Mafia Does not Exist, January 24, 2003
This review is from: Mafia and Mafiosi: Origin, Power, and Myth (Paperback)
So runs the theme of this most excellent work by Sociologist Henner Hess. In point of fact, the Mafiosi came well before the Mafia, a secret crime organization supposedly having it's roots deep in history: in reality, such a Mafia never existed, and what most of us think of today as the Mafia is mainly a fairly recent example of life imitating art.
The subculture of Mafiosi had its beginnings in the 1860s as an extension of feudalism in Sicily. In Hess's book we meet the true Mafiosi, uomo d'onore, a man of honor, the Godfather. He is the Don who is the self-made man, able to do well for himself and his family, able to solve his own problems without help from the State, which he disdains. This is the Mafia of Don Corleone, a man of respect who uses illegal methods to protect the land owning nobility he tenants and advance his own means through extortion, intimidation, theft, and of course, murder.
Hess easily dismisses the historical fallacies of an ancient foundation for a Mafia, rooted in culture, religion, Freemasonry or other popular esoteric sources. Surprisingly, the Mafia of secret rituals and structured crime families competing and cooperating on an immense scale in international crime is a relatively recent phenomenon in Italy, one imported from America. Indeed, the American Mafiosi's Sicilian country cousin has been as much influenced by him and the movies and books such as the Godfather about him, that this once mainly agrarian phenomenon has changed to meet those concepts. It was not until well after publication of the Godfather that the Coreleonisi Mafiosi, wanting to imitate the artistic depiction of their own values of Omerta, made themselves the most powerful crime Organization in Italy.
This is a truly fascinating read, both scholarly and entertaining, and the most reliable book on the origins of the Sicilian Mafia I have come across.
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