Walt's Reviews > Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories

Mafias on the Move by Federico Varese
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's review
May 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: organized-crime
Read in April, 2011

The idea of protecting private property as a requirement for successful mafia migration is difficult to prove. I am not entirely convinced by his adaptation of Diego Gambetta's thesis. Of all of the case studies he uses to support the thesis, the only one to which I am familiar is New York City. He does successfully outline corruption, failed judiciary, unemployed people with skills in violence, but he does not demonstrate a connection between the Sicilian Mafiosi coming to America ca. 1890-1900 and the police reforms of 1910-1914. His only connection is a vague reference to the trial of Lucky Luciano in 1936, and there is considerable evidence that that trial was a sham. His failure to prove the thesis with New York seriously questions his analysis of other locations. He also has some ambiguity about the rackets of the transplanted gangsters. I read the book twice and the chapter on the Russian mob in Rome three times. I am still uncertain what they were doing in Rome. The oil lease racket in Hungary was likewise confusing. What was the Russians' role in the field? The most thorough studies were on the N'Drangheta in northern Italy. This is probably because Varese speaks the language and has more knowledge of the field. Despite its short comings, I am very impressed with the breadth and scope of the study. I am glad to read a book that tries to apply theory to actual history and crime. The book is an easy read and generally enjoyable with photographs and illustrations throughout the text and some historical details that progresses the story along very well.

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message 1: by Federico (new) - added it

Federico The main task of Russians in Rome was investing dirty money in the legal economy (p. 76, a point repeated earlier and later as well, e.g. p. 84, p. 95, see also Table 4.1. Pp. 76-79 describe how they did it). I thought it was pretty clear in the text. As for the US case, I also make reference to labor-racketeering and how Italians entered that market (pp. 114-115), just after the police reforms. Still, happy to get 4 stars!

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