Fascism and the Mafia


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Christopher Duggan

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Although the Sicilian Mafia is a subject of endless fascination, few serious books have been written about it. In this provocative work, Christopher Duggan argues that the idea of the Sicilian Mafia is a fiction, born of political calculation and genuine misunderstanding of the behavior of Sicilians.
The book consists of two parts. The first looks at the development of the idea of the Mafia from the 1860s, when the term first appeared,  to the Second World War. Duggan explains that while all serious observers in Sicily realized that there was no organized criminal society in Sicily, there were several reasons why the idea was perpetuated. One was that when Sicily became part of unified Italy in 1860, hostility to the new state was claimed by officials to be criminally inspired, and they spoke for the first time of 'the Mafia.' From then on, man of Sicily's political and social problems were attributed to this mythical organization. A second reason for a mafia mythology was that Sicilian society had different values from other parts of Italy. Sicilian belief in private justice and their unwillingness to cooperate with the police reinforced the idea of a secret criminal organization.
The second part of the book is a detailed study of the repressive campaign conducted by the fascist government against the Mafia in the 1920s.  Making use of private papers, police files, and trial proceedings, Duggan concludes that the Mafia was largely an idea exploited for political ends, and that its use only reinforced the deep mistrust that many Sicilians had of the state. Duggan's book—which is also the first study of the impact of fascism in Sicily—indicates why there was so much hostility to fascism there in the later years of the regime
Duggan’s lively and original book will be of great interest to historians of modern Italy, to anthropologists, and to criminologists, and well as to those who are actively engaged in the fight against organized crime.

"Fascinating reading."—Ron Grossman, The Chicago Tribune

"Meticulously researched and brightly written."—Joseph Farrell, The Scotsman

"A highly readable and vivid portrayal of a rather frightening society up to 50 years ago."—Robert Harvey, Daily Telegraph

"Duggan’s debunking is scholarly and convincing."—Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times

"Duggan’s brilliantly coherent and sardonic account of Fascism flexing its polystyrene biceps, . . . sensibly makes no attempt to give the Mafia a definitive origin and even invites us to doubt that as an organisation it exists at all."—Jonathan Keates, The Observer

"Duggan’s book is original, provocative and persuasive, showing convincingly that the Mafia is not the secret society it has usually been assumed to be."—David Gilmour, New Statesman & Society

"Fascism and the Mafia is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of fascism—Adrian Lyttelton, Times Literary Supplement

"Duggan is now the leading authority on Sicily."—Peter Hebblethwaite, The Tablet

"Two books for the price of one: a study of the Fascist police campaign against the mafia in Sicily in the mid and late 1920s, and a very carefully documented, critical analysis of the origins and development of the idea of the mafia in the Bourbon and liberal periods. . . . Duggan very skillfully and convincingly demolishes many of the myths and legends surrounding the mafia, separating fact from fiction and exposing the ways in which the term has been manipulated, misused, and misunderstood."—John F. Pollard, Times Higher Education Supplement

"[Duggan’s book is a] lively and provocative study. . . . [He has] an eye for the absurd and [a] finely honed prose style."—Jonathan Steinberg, London Review of Books

"This book adds to the growing historical and social science literature that focuses upon the interaction between political organizations and cultural ideas. . . . [A] provocative book."—Mabel Berezin, Contemporary Sociology

"A well-documented, thoughtful, and provocative study."—Choice

"[A] splendidly readable study. . . . [A] vivid account."—Paul Preston, History Today

"A fascinating and illuminating story of two contrasting figures who led the fight of Fascism against the Mafia during the 1920s."—H.F. Mackensen, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

"This book brings together the two themes of modern Italian history that have most fascinated both scholars and the general public in the twentieth century. . . . Christopher Duggan provides . . . a work of explicit demystification that challenges popular notions about the nature of the Sicilian Mafia and the success of fascism’s anti-Mafia campaign in the 1920s. In the process he helps revise our understanding of the Mafia, the Sicilian fascist movement, and the role of Benito Mussolini’s regime in southern Italy."—Anthony Cardoza, American Historical Review

"An informative and provocative examination of the Sicilian mafia and the repressive campaign orchestrated against it by Italy’s Fascist government. Fascism and the Mafia is highly recommended for the insight it gives into a neglected area in the historiography of Fascist Italy."—W. Vincent Arnold, European Studies Journal

ISBN: 9780300043723
Publication Date: September 10, 1989
356 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
21 b/w illus.