Reversible Destiny: Mafia, Antimafia, and the Struggle for Palermo

By Jane C. Schneider; Peter T. Schneider | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 12
Reversible Destiny

Four elements underlie the possibility that a mafia-infused Sicilian “destiny” could be reversed. First, the mafia is not derived from any “deep” history—some would say “culture”—of Sicily, but rather had its origins in nineteenth-century processes of state and market formation. Second, the modernization of Sicily after World War II brought with it an expanding urban and educated middle class, some constituencies of which have supported an antimafia social movement, a revitalized policejudicial campaign against organized crime, and a reform government in Palermo, the regional capital. Third, the leaders of these developments are engaged in a serious effort to change how ordinary people think about and relate to the mafia. Their impact is especially evident in the recuperation of the city's historic center and the “re-education” of schoolchildren. And fourth, the 1992 collapse of the Italian First Republic left mafiosi, at least temporarily, without their political referents. Political institutions of the post–Cold War era, from Italy's “Second Republic” to the European Union and the United Nations, seem bent on criminalizing drug trafficking and condemning corrupt authorities, both formerly tolerated, or incompletely prosecuted, in the name of anticommunism.

Taken together, these elements suggest that citizens' groups can confront and challenge organized crime, criminal traffics, and stateauthorized but illegal violence, at least insofar as wider structures of power are on their side. Unfortunately, very recent elections in both the national and Sicilian regional governments raise questions about how

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