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Political Science in Europe

‘Paramafia’: Ideas for a Complementary Mafia Model

Organised Crime
Critical Theory
Comparative Perspective
Luca Bonzanni
Università degli Studi di Milano
Luca Bonzanni
Università degli Studi di Milano

From decades, traditional Italian mafias (Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta, Camorra) settled in non-traditional areas, especially Northern Italy. Morover, in addition to a diffusion of mafia groups, today we observe a spread of mafia’s method. This paper aims at investigating in deep the process of developing a mafia-kind modus operandi in new organization formed by people extraneous (by family, background and territorial origins) to mafia. The research has a qualitative approach and explore two case studies localised in Bergamo, a district in Northern Italy, using analysis of judicial documents and institutional reports and in-depth interviewing with experts and inhabitants.

Scientific studies on mafia hybridization focuses their attention mainly on ‘simple’ criminal groups that evolve into mafia-type one. Empirical research conversely shows in recent time a new, different trend. We can describe this phenomenon with the definition ‘paramafia’. For ‘paramafia’ we mean the systematic assumption of a modus operandi typical of mafia repertoire by organizations whose members are formally unrelated to traditional mafia organizations – players are in nuce not criminals. Members of a paramafia group are connected to each other in a lasting relationship, are hierarchically ordered according to a division of labour and aim to achieve profits and power, committing systematically crimes.

There are several similarities between paramafia and traditional mafia: the method and the crimes practiced (e.g. intimidation, extortion, corruption, illegal waste disposal), a hierarchical structure of groups, the contemporaneous interest for profits and power.

A paramafia phenomenon could rise when there is an extended, strict (monopolizing) relationship between a group with public functions (politicians, entrepreneurs, officials) and the social fabric in which the group is operating. The group also needs a large relationship network, and the settlement area must be relatively small – therefore, there is a high density of social relationships. A crucial factor is that the social fabric must be characterized by an originary ‘criminal void’ (no other organized crime operating group in the area).
The limit of a paramafia organization is in its continuity: traditional mafias have an ideological structure that permits the reproduction of the phenomenon; in paramafia there is no a latency, or is weak, consequently its ‘life’ is limited. A fundamental difference is in the relation between profit and power: power is the main dimension of mafia’s essence and it leads to profit; in paramafia model, from profit comes power.
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