Unlike most other developed countries, Italy hosts a few, large-scale, century-old criminal organizations that not only engage in profit-making criminal activities but also exercise quasi-political functions in their areas of settlement, heavily influencing the local economic and political life. These criminal organizations—in short “mafias”—are frequently seen as the ultimate epitome of organized crime. The first section of the essay briefly reconstructs the history of the concept “mafia,” singling out the main meanings that have over the decades been attached to it. The second presents the main criminal organizations currently regarded as mafias in Italy. The bulk of the essay argues that four characteristics distinguish mafia organizations in Italy and mafia-type organizations elsewhere: (1) the organizations’ longevity, (2) their organizational and cultural complexity, (3) their claim to exercise a political dominion over their areas of settlement—a claim that has over the decades been at least partially recognized by the local population and parts of the official government, and (4) their resulting ability to control legitimate markets. The essay argues that the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta meet all four characteristics, whereas several groups of the camorra, which are based in Naples and its surroundings, meet the latter two. The essay concludes by briefly summarizing government and societal anti-mafia action from the early 1990s onward and considering how mafia groups have reacted to it.
Lieven J. R. Pauwels, Gerben J.N. Bruinsma, Frank M. Weerman, Wim Hardyns, and Wim Bernasco
This chapter provides an overview of European neighborhood studies of crime, victimization, and delinquency that were explicitly guided or inspired by social disorganization theory. Although the origin of social disorganization theory lies in the United States with a long-lasting tradition in urban research, considerable attention has also been given to this perspective in Europe, as well as in other parts of the world. In Europe, a long research tradition of studies on the effects of city or neighborhood characteristics on crime-related outcomes existed before the social disorganization perspective emerged in the United States. Recently, several studies have been conducted in European cities that report findings that differ from those usually found in an American context. Therefore, knowledge about these European studies is paramount for our insights on the role of the neighborhood in crime and criminal behavior.