Henner Hess's classic work, first published almost a quarter century ago, gives a detailed picture of the typical career of mafiosi. Hess describes a distinct subculture whose behavioral patterns have been largely determined by the specific political, economic, and social history of Sicily, a society characterized by a weak state and organized on the basis of self-help. This subculture was and is the breeding ground for the strong-arm man "mafioso" or "uomo d'onore," man of honor, as he is called in Sicily, the proud, taciturn, independent man who believes in the use of violence to achieve personal goals.
As a rule, the men come from poor families and rise through violent crime, shrewd diplomacy and the building of a "family" of followers to a respected position of power and wealth. Most important are the mafioso's reciprocal arrangements with politicians and government officials whom he supports in the elections and who protect him from law enforcement. Mafia, popularly conceived as a strictly centralized secret society, is instead proven to be a system of independent families which might on many occasions cooperate, but just as easily be driven to bloody feud. Only in the last decade have there been a number of so-called "pentiti," crown witnesses who cooperate with the criminal justice system. Using their testimonies, an extensive afterword brings the book up to date.
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The author of numerous books, Henner Hess teaches criminology at the University of Frankfurt in Germany.Language Notes:
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German
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