Secrecy and Violence

Letizia Paoli

in Mafia Brotherhoods

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780195157246
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199943982 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Crime and Public Policy

Secrecy and Violence

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Self-excluding from state jurisdiction through secrecy, mafia groups cannot do without violence to solve internal conflicts, defend common interests, or guarantee the effectiveness of their legal order. In Sicily and Calabria, the groups' adoption of secrecy has never been a matter of principle only, promoted by ideals or by the desire to copy liberal secret sects. Variations and discontinuity in the enforcement of secrecy can be seen in dimensions other than that of time. This is because, far from being an unchanging property, secrecy is relational. As the history of families belonging to Cosa Nostra and 'Ndrangheta demonstrates, the degree to which it is used varies depending on the external referents with whom the individual or the organization has to deal. The cultural code that symbolizes, despite its multivocality, the obligation of secrecy is omertà. In the Cosa Nostra, the boundary between the initiates and the outsiders created by the rite of mafia initiation is strengthened by the rigid obligation to silence on members.

Keywords: Cosa Nostra; 'Ndrangheta; violence; secrecy; mafia; silence; omertà; legal order; Sicily; Calabria

Chapter.  18942 words. 

Subjects: Social Theory

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