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Feature Articles


June 2018
This Is Not Your Grandfather's
'Ndrangheta

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus


Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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The current use of “mafia” is to be understood as a model, an overarching criminal concept against which all criminal enterprises are to be compared. To speak of a mafia-like syndicate is to give to that entity a certain cachet, a distinguishing mark, in the world of big-time racketeering that is here to stay. The criminal concept “mafia” has had a changeable history since its official recognition in Italy in the 1860s, representing something different going on. As a single entity term “mafia” has been replaced by the term La Cosa Nostra, and the word mafia has been generalized to cover all the significant criminal enterprises. Our concern here is the southern region of Calabria, namely ‘Ndrangheta, its home base at the toe of the Italian Boot. Calabrian history has had its uniqueness in many ways in regard to organized crime. It is of a different order given its lack of large urban development. Long standing prejudice from the North views such people as “dirty,” called ‘TERRONE, workers of the soil, not worthy of consideration. Thus ‘Ndrangheta is seen as the dark side of criminality. The winds of change are ever present. Let us look briefly at the current literature of this expanding racketeering phenomenon.

‘Ndrangheta, also known as the Calabrian Mafia, is structured with a number of clans called drine, its historical location in southern Calabria. It is a pluralistic phenomenon under one name. The concept of ‘Ndranghetismo makes reference to its mafia-type criminal culture that absorbs the various Calabrian clans, thereby increasing its signature and scope and reputation as an existential criminal threat to the society. Calabrian ndrine have become international, engaging, profiting as drug trafficking lords, money laundering, online gambling, and generally infiltrating various sectors of the economy, seeking profit and influence. What we are seeing is a power syndicate controlling territory, seeking opportunities and acting like a polymafia. There are new terms to be learned. ‘Ndrangetismo is the process 0f spreading its crimimal behavior. ‘Ddranghetisation is the process of limitation and osmosis among among the clans in Calabria and beyond the regional boundaries or similar ‘dhranghetist behavior. The ‘Drangheta of today is more than mafia-like. It cannot be assumed as comprising one monolithic structure, but rather several independent racketeering groupings that are arguably independent of one another, yet can be seen as creatures of a certain southern Italian tradition that has lost its provincialism, its cultural roots, that is to say its historic raison detre.

Grandpa sensed the changes that were occurring around him. He had moments of confusion. He saw a new landscape, new values. Family no longer dominated .Personal vendettas to balance the scales no longer acceptable. What was in his day “Our thing” had become “Too big a thing.”


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