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Trevor Stone's Journal
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Social Capital in Neapolitan Organized Crime 
28th-Apr-2012 09:15 pm
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I know some of my Italian friends will like this story. It's about organized crime in northern Naples, which has some differences with the Sicilian-style Mafia that Americans are used to stories about. Most prominently, for a couple decades there was little violence. The head of the dominant clan, Paolo Di Lauro, had more of an accountant style than the typical murder-prone crime boss.

One thing that was clear to me when reading the article is that organized crime is all about social capital. And in Italy, the government doesn't have a lot of social capital:
An anti-Mafia judge told me that some of the police—even those who have not been corrupted—would rather not see the government prevail, because they fear the even greater disorder that would result. Another judge pointed out to me that the government needs the Camorra for social control. He said, “For a political leader, it’s easier to speak to a Camorra boss than to 100,000 people to get a message across.” More than that, he said: the Camorra sets standards, enforces laws, keeps police power itself in check, fends off aggressive tax collectors, employs a huge percentage of the population, creates and distributes wealth more efficiently than any other sector of society, and stands in to keep things going, especially in times like these, when the national economy has failed and the currency itself is at risk.

One popular narrative about the European financial crisis has been that Mediterranean cultures are lazy while Northern European cultures are hard-working. But I think it goes deeper than that: around the Mediterranean, a lot of work is put into building social capital and paying social taxes–from favors to protection money–and avoiding the government's tax collectors. In the north, there's a tradition of strong government and paying your taxes. Of course, in the Northern style, a clever financial mastermind can accumulate massive wealth without paying off a whole city's worth of associates. He'll also be less likely to face solitary confinement.
29th-Apr-2012 04:38 am (UTC)
Naples is funny. The napoletanos are very cognizant about the burden of organized crime. You could hardly NOT be aware of it, as any visitor immediately notices the garbage.

At first I thought it was a strike. Strikes are common in Italy and there always seems to be a strike for something on (trains, etc). Except....the "strike" never ended. Our napoletano friends say that an organized crime organization are the owners of the contract to remove garbage. For awhile after they got this contract, the garbage was removed on time, but they stopped removing it and the government allows this to happen due to corruption.

It's too bad too because the food in Naples is so good, and the city is fun (like all of Southern Italy). But no one wants to walk around with all that garbage.

There is some truth to the idea that the Southerners are more laissez-faire. I have not been to Sicily yet, but have made three trips to other parts of Southern Italy. I feel like the regional motto of both Campania and Lazio is "non preoccuparti" (don't worry)!
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