December 6, 2016

Prof Traces Stability of Italian Mafias to Leadership Structure

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The organizational structure of Italian mafias impacts each syndicate’s stability and use of violence, according to Prof. Maurizio Catino, sociology of organization, University of Milan Bicocca.

Understanding how these mafias are structured is a difficult task because communicating with the mafia groups is illegal and dangerous; only high-ranking members truly know their hierarchical operation, Catino said. Despite these complications, the lecturer said has invested years in understanding the three largest mafia groups in Italy — Cosa Nostra, Camorra and ‘Ndràngheta.

In Italy, most mafias are led by a small group of “made members,” followed by various associates and collaborators. The mafias also play an important role in controlling markets, and specialize in one specific product — protection, according to Catino.

“The mafia is known to be involved in the underworld crime world, but it is also heavily involved in the upperworld through the construction industry, restaurants, real estate [and] waste management,” Catino said.

The Cosa Nostra and ‘Ndràngheta syndicates are more complex and hierarchical than Camorra because the crime boss plays a key role in coordinating the criminal system and supporting business deals, Catino said. He called this structure ‘vertically organized,’ while Camorra is ‘horizontally organized,’ because it is controlled by competing families rather than a single leader.

Catino said he has also discovered a correlation between organizational structure and use of violence in murders that are both ordinary and high profile.

“The more vertical organization, the fewer ordinary murders because there is greater hegemonic control that the crime boss has on its members,” he said.

Supporting this theory, statistics indicate that the Cosa Nostra and ‘Ndràngheta’s ordinary murders peaked only during mafia wars, while Camorra’s are less predictable, according to Catino.

Camorra’s leadership conflicts also result in violence by creating power vacuums that lead to instability, Catino said. He added that the leaders of vertically organized mafia live longer because crime bosses carry more authority that prevents mutiny.

“Vertical organized mafia have grey hair, but horizontal mafia have black hair,” he said.