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Palgrave Macmillan

Challenging the Mafia Mystique

Cosa Nostra from Legitimisation to Denunciation

ISBN 9781137280497
Publication Date December 2015
Formats No other formats available
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

The Sicilian Mafia, or Cosa Nostra, is one of the most intriguing criminal phenomena in the world. It is an unparalleled organised criminal grouping that over almost two centuries has been able not only to successfully permeate licit and illicit economy, politics and civil society, but also to influence and exercise authoritative power over both the underworld and the upper-world. This criminal phenomenon has been a captivating conundrum for scholars of different disciplines who have tried to explain with various paradigms the reasons behind the emergence and consolidation of the mafia. 
Challenging the Mafia Mystique provides an analysis of the changes the Sicilian mafia has undergone, from legitimisation to denunciation. Rino Coluccello highlights how, from the very emergence of the organised criminal groups in Sicily, a culture existed that was protective and tolerant of the mafia. He argues that the various conceptualisations of the mafia that dominated the public and scientific debate in the nineteenth and more than half of the twentieth century created a mystique, which legitimised the mafia and contributed to their success. This book will be of great interest to scholars and students of organised crime, Italian politics and Italian literature.

Salvatore Coluccello is Senior Lecturer at the School of International Studies and Social Science, Coventry University, UK.


1. The Origins of the Mafia as a Criminal Phenomenon and as a Forma Mentis

2. The Abolition of Feudalism, Mafia in the Unified Kingdom and I Mafiusi della Vicaria

3. Public and Private Enquiries on the Criminal Consortium: But the Mafia Doesn't Exist

4. Mafia and Politics in Sicilian Society at the End of the 19th Century: The Notarbartolo Affair, The Formation of 'Sicilianism' and Consolidation of the Mafia Mystique.

5. The Literature of Defence and the 'Heresy' of Don Sturzo.

6. The Popular Legitimisation of the Mafia: The Beati Paoli and the Mafioso as an Avenger

7. Fascism and the Surrender of the Mafia, the Allied Invasion and the Return of the Villains

8. The Breaking Point: A New Image of the Mafia

9. Leonardo Sciascia: The Writer as the Public Conscience

10. Conclusion


'Rino Coluccello's book is an admirably comprehensive, clear and illuminating guide to the development of the Sicilian mafia and the power it acquired, from its emergence in the nineteenth century to the days of Falcone and Buscetta. His rigorous research illustrates the changing nature of Cosa Nostra while his multi-level approach deftly blends historical survey, sociological analysis and insightful reflection on fiction and drama related to the topic.' - – Joseph Farrell, Professor Emeritus of Italian, University of Strathclyde, UK   'Rino Coluccello takes readers on a fascinating journey into the history and culture of "darkest Italy" to tell us, as no one has before, about the origins of the Mafia and how this sinister criminal organization has been interpreted over time by travelers, novelists, journalists, government investigators, and film makers. Americans no less than Europeans will find this an enthralling story.' - Don H. Doyle, Professor of History, University of South Carolina, USA   'As a prosecutor I have always looked at the mafia from a criminal and investigative point of view. Contrasting its violent actions and its almost eternal race for power have always been the main focus of my action as a magistrate and also my principal worry as a Sicilian devoted to change the history of this region. Salvatore "Rino" Coluccello's book gave me and will give all readers different perspectives - – historical, social, sociological and "cultural" - – that really do enrich the picture of the phenomenon. This book can be considered an outstanding starting point for anyone who is really interested in deepening the knowledge, background and possible developments of one of the most dangerous criminal organisations in the history of the world.' - – Dr. Gery Ferrara, Deputy Prosecutor, Antimafia Directorate at the Procura in Palermo, Italy
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