Cultural Warfare and Trust: Fighting the Mafia in Palermo
According to Carina Gunnarson generalised trust could be crucial not only in the prevention of crime, but also for economic development and successful democracy.
Publisher: Manchester University Press
“As long as we suspect that most people will cheat others, our incentives to cooperate will remain weak” (Gunnarson 2008: 2). According to Carina Gunnarson, and I am inclined to agree having read around the topic for the last year referring to other notaries such as Francis Fukuyama, Putnam and Uslander, research shows that the existence of social capital in a society – or, in the context of the study described in her book, ‘Cultural warfare and trust’, published by Manchester University Press 2008, more specifically Generalised Trust, could be crucial not only in the prevention of crime, but also for economic development and successful democracy.
Moreover, the presence of generalised trust in society leads to enhanced government, more redistribution and economic growth and less corruption.
When I started out my journey researching organised crime and attempting to identify methods of tackling the phenomenon I was surprised to find that I was reading about how trust in society has so much influence on the subject. Gunnarson’s book offers the reader an intellectual insight into some of the challenges faced by government, law enforcement and anti-mafia organisation in Palermo, Sicily’s capital.
Using qualitative research methods the culmination of facts and figures prove a fascinating introduction to the topic, citing many well known authors of additional academia in the subject of society and trust, the book is an interesting well established source of information.
The killings in 1992 of Judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino seem to have been a decisive catalyst to many vital anti-mafia developments in Palermo. Not only was Leoluca Orlando re-elected Mayor in 1993 “on a strong anti mafia platform” (Gunnarson 2008: 6), Orlando’s key goals were to reclaim control over the city and its territory, restore citizens’ rights and the promotion of a civic conscience and a rule of law.
1992 saw the birth of many anti-mafia organisations in the city, although some have since petered out, many gain strength and support every day. Just one of these crucial organisations is Addio Pizzo whose ethical consumerism and tourism campaign offers advice and support to Palermo citizens and visitors and facilitates the membership of those shops, businesses and organisation who no longer want to pay protection money to the local Mafia bosses.
A vital piece of information that supported my own research in Palermo and emerged from reading this book was that there is much work to be done in Palermo, and more so on researching the anti-mafia phenomenon. There are many groups that deserve mention when we consider the topic of countering organised crime in Europe, and Freedom Legality and Rights in Europe (FLARE) offer membership and support to such groups.
Ultimately in support of the many groups specifically working to fight the mafia in Palermo, and in an attempt to further enthuse others to support the growing anti-mafia phenomenon, taken from an excerpt from ‘Cultural warfare and trust’, I offer this quote from Leoluca Orlando: - “Speaking about the mafia is an effective way of fighting it. The mafia is identified with Sicily: the Mafiosi would like Sicilians to become their cultural accomplice. They think that mafia and Sicily identify with one another. But the mafia is Sicily’s worst enemy because it has used the history of Sicily against Sicily, the identity of Sicily against Sicily. The culture of Sicily against Sicily. This is why it’s a good thing to speak about the mafia and remember the Mafia is not Sicily.” (L. Orlando).
“Palermo may thus be understood as a cultural battleground where the Mafia and state compete for power, legitimacy and territorial control” (Gunnarson 2008: 7).
Book review by Daran Oswyn Jones, BA Hons, MA. (Palermo January 2011)