This book aims to describe and demystify what makes criminal gangs so culturally powerful. It examines their codes of conduct, initiation rites, secret communications methods, origin myths, symbols, and the like that imbue the gangsters with the pride and nonchalance that goes hand in hand with their criminal activities. Mobsters are everywhere in the movies, on television, and on websites. Contemporary societies are clearly fascinated by them. Why is this so? What feature and constituents of organized criminal gangs make them so emotionally powerful—to themselves and others? These are the questions that have guided the writing of this textbook, which is intended as an introduction to organized crime from the angle of cultural analysis. Key topics include:
• An historic overview of organized crime, including the social, economic, and cultural conditions that favour its development;
• A review of the type of people who make up organized gangs and the activities in which they engage;
• The symbols, rituals, codes and languages that characterize criminal institutions;
• The relationship between organized crime and cybercrime;
• The role of women in organized crime;
• Drugs and narco-terrorism;
• Media portrayals of organized crime.
Organized Crime includes case studies and offers an accessible, interdisciplinary approach to the subject of organized crime. It is essential reading for students engaged with organized crime across criminology, sociology, anthropology and psychology.
Table of Contents
1.What Is Organized Crime? 2.The Italian Mafias 3.Other Criminal Organizations 4.Organization 5.The Players 6.Codes 7.The Made Man 8.The Women 9.Resources 10.The Business Agenda 11.Strategic Violence 12.Symbols and Myths 13.Secret Communication 14.Popular Culture 15.Cyberspace 16.Theories 17.Tribalism and Adaptability 18.Epilogue
Antonio Nicaso teaches courses on social history of organized crime and Mafia culture at Queen’s University. He is a leading expert on Mafia and Mafia-like criminal organizations in the world. He has published more than 30 books on organized crime, including many bestsellers.
Marcel Danesi is Full Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, where he has been teaching since 1974. He has published extensively in the fields of linguistics, semiotics, and forensic semiotics.
Organized Crime is a social bad, that harms people and the economy. Yet it is also a phenomenon that goes beyond the profit motive, involving rituals, norms of behaviour, and codes of conduct. This book by Danesi and Nicaso is an excellent general introduction to the topic, that also sheds light on several neglected aspects of this phenomenon. A text well worth reading.
Federico Varese, Author of Mafia Life, Professor of Criminology, Oxford University
At long last, a book that combines the rigour of an academic text with the accessibility and page-turning qualities of some of the best works of literary non-fiction covering the Mafia. In Nicaso and Danesi's latest offering, we once again see their non-traditional and multidisciplinary approach to exploring the cultural underpinnings and rituals of organised crime and their place both within not only larger and complex social and legal structures but also within the popular imagination. The format of this book also allows for quick reference as needed, making it ideal as a course text for those criminology courses out there focusing on not only the Mafia per se, but also any groups recognized as being adherents to the "traditional" organised crime model.
Dr. Michael Arntfield, Criminologist & Homicide Scholar, Western University, Canada
Like many people, I am, I must confess, both drawn to and repelled by certain types of organised crime, at least in terms of what I see in the movies and elsewhere. The family bonds in The Godfather draw me in, I never wanted Sonny to die like that, the slaughter in Al Pacino’s Scarface repels me. The news most nights tell me that organised crime is behind most of society’s ills. But what’s behind the emotional (and sometimes glamorous) images and the headlines. Organised Crime: A Cultural Introduction by Antonio Nicaso and Marcel Danesi explains fully. This interdisciplinary approach to the subject of organised crime is a truly fascinating read which will be an eye-opener for scholars and students across a range of disciplines including criminology, sociology, anthropology and psychology. Academic authority, cultural and semiotic sensitivity, and a deep understanding of the subject matter shines through this important book.
Professor Geoffrey Beattie, Edge Hill University, UK