Deviance of Organized Crime
The “Mafia” is alive and well in Canadian society. Many people in society are intrigued by this group of deviants and due to societies glorification of the Mafia some may argue whether or not the Mafia is even deviant at all. However one just needs to read the article “Montreal godfather murder deja vu” by Antonio Nicaso, in which he demonstrates how organized crime can develop deep roots in society. Nicolo Rizzuto was raised in environment of criminal activity in Sicily, and continued that lifestyle when he immigrated to Canada in 1954.
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The family settled into an Italian neighbourhood and Nicolo became a member of the Cotroni organization, a branch of the powerful New York-based Bonanno family. He rose to the top in the late 1970s, after the murders of Paolo Violi and his brothers Francesco and Rocco. Nicolo and his son, Vito, eventually ran a sophisticated crime family with global tentacles. The family ties are strong, long lasting and far reaching in this society, no different really then other large families, the discriminating factor of course is the acceptance of criminal activity, and in fact it is a way of life.
According to Francis Ianni’s A Family Business, as reviewed by (James F. Short & Lotz, July 1975), in Sicily the word Mafia has two meanings, one is the term meaning the Mafia as an organization and the other is that the Mafia is an attitude, which has its own set of principles, code of ethics and the code of silence. In Canadian society the term is interchangeable. The code of behaviour is passed down from generation to generation.
In my analysis and research on this topic I discovered that, if you are brought up in a criminal environment, your odds of becoming a criminal are exceptionally high as the socialization process into a life of crime starts very early. The sociological theories behind organized crime are the same as what drives anyone else to a life of crime; environment, power, and family values. In order to support my argument we look at three theories in particular, strain, differential association and control theory. Strain theory, which theorizes that crime, is simply a way to fulfill the desire to accumulate wealth and build power.
Another interesting approach is differential association theory in which every new immigrant population finds social boundaries to its desires to achieve the “Canadian Dream” and eventually utilizes a form of organized crime to achieve this dream albeit illegally. Lastly, we look at social control theory, which suggests that community, family, and the bond with society prevents or encourages entry into a life of crime. It is the fear of punishment, shame or embarrassment, and an individual’s conscience that explains why someone who has the opportunity will or will not engage in criminal activity.
It is this theory that in my opinion is the one most closely associated with the deviance in organized crime. As supported by strain theory, the lure of this life of crime is power, both monetary and political. In some cases, crime bosses often have a high social standing and are sought after by politicians, corporate leaders, and sometimes even religious leaders. Many times these organized criminals are asked to influence political causes and elections, but the biggest attraction is the vast sums of revenue generated by organized crime, this gives the head of the organization a great deal of wealth and power.
For instance, the article Montreal Godfather deja vu (Nicaso, 2010), describes the Rizzuto families immigration to Canada in 1954. The condition for Italian immigrants in Montreal, or any large Canadian city, at the time was similar to that in Sicily, as a result of this Rizzuto had ample opportunity to continue and even further the Mafia organization. According to the work by F. Ianni as reviewed by (James F. Short & Lotz, July 1975), the Mafia was originally established as a secret society to fight the oppression by the rich, the state, and the police and to bring order to an unjust society.
As a result of the social and economic conditions in the early 50’s, immigrants usually were hired for low level jobs in the trades, working long hours for minimum wages and forced to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. In order to climb the social ladder and be able to have the symbols of success, crime was the answer for many. We can see how given the conditions in Montreal’s immigrant neighbourhoods, when Rizzuto and his family came to Canada the atmosphere was right for him to cultivate the “Mafia” way of life in his neighbourhood.
Using his network back in Italy and the family ties he had in Canada, he was able to gain power, respect and wealth by promising to protect and give jobs to the other families in the neighbourhood, but what he was really doing was making a place in society for himself and his family. As illustrated in the article Families, Crime and Criminal Justice (Greer Litton Fox and Michae lL. Benson, 2000) strain theory developed by Robert Merton, may result from the failure to achieve a variety of goals, such as the failure to achieve money, and status/respect.
Money is perhaps the central goal for everyone, poor as well as rich, because we are all encouraged to work hard so that we might make a lot of money. Further, money is necessary to buy many of the things we want, including the necessities of life and luxury items. Many people, however, are prevented from getting the money they need through legal channels, such as hard work, and education. This is especially true for poor people, but it is true for many middle-class people with unrealistic goals as well.
As a consequence, people experience strain and they may attempt to get money through illegal channels, such as theft, selling drugs, and prostitution. Closely related to the desire for money is the desire for status and respect. People want to be positively regarded by others and they want to be treated respectfully by others, which at a minimum involves being treated in a just or fair manner. According to the article Crime in Society (Du Bois, 2002), financial success is the most sought after goal in most societies. Our self worth and how we assess other peoples place in society is measured in terms of what people have.
Even at Carleton, we look at how people dress, or who has an iPhone, the “right” shoes, or car. While most people strive to attain financial success by legitimate means like working and getting an education, and they succeed, other people do not no matter how hard they work. This causes frustration for them but because of their place in society, whether it is growing up in the inner city or European immigrants, like Rizzuto, they may not have the resources or the access to resources they need to use a legitimate means of achieving the dream of wealth and success.
This then causes them to choose illegitimate means to achieve the dream. The society that values the dream of wealth and power is the same society that condemns their means of achieving the dream. To illustrate this point, according to RCMP testimony (Nicaso, 2010), the Rizzuto family was skimming 5% off of every government construction contract in Quebec and that there was at least $42B dollars is going to be awarded over the next five years, that 5% represents $2. 1B to the family and that doesn’t include their drug trade money nor prostitution.
They are definitely achieving the dream of wealth and power thru illegitimate means. According to differential association theory people learn to engage in a life of crime through their association with others (Jennings, 2009). Their behaviour and actions are reinforced for criminal acts and they learn beliefs that are favourable to crime, and they are exposed to criminal models. As a result of this, they come to view crime as something that is desirable or at least justifiable in certain situations. Groups like the family and peers have a huge impact on what we learn.
In the differential association theory, individuals teach others to engage in crime through the reinforcements and punishments they provide for behaviour. For instance crime is more likely to occur when people who commit criminal acts are rewarded or they are told they have done well and if they infrequently punished, (Jennings, 2009). The behaviour reinforcement may involve such things as money, attention from parents, approval from friends, or an increase in social status. Furthermore some individuals are in environments where crime is more likely to be reinforced (Jennings, 2009), like an organized crime family.
Sometimes this reinforcement is deliberate, as in an organized crime family, individuals not only reinforce crime, they also teach beliefs favourable to crime. Most individuals, of course, are taught that crime is bad or wrong. They eventually accept this belief, and they are less likely to engage in crime as a result. However, if you are raised in a family of criminals who engage in crime as a way of making and keeping their standard of living and place in society, then they are more likely to learn beliefs that are favourable o crime and they are more likely to engage in crime as a result (Jennings, 2009), as is the case with the Rizzuto family. In particular, individuals, especially young children, often imitate or model the behaviour of others, especially when they like or respect these others and have reason to believe that imitating their behaviour will result in reinforcement. As seen in the article (Nicaso, 2010), a number of family members are associated with the Rizzuto crime family, from Rizzuto’s, brothers, cousins, all the way down to his own son.
Growing up in this environment of criminal activity one could not help but learn that crime is an acceptable way of life; in fact it is the expected way of life. Lastly we look at social control theory to support my argument, when people think of control they think of someone watching over people and prevent them from committing crimes or doing bad things (Webber, 2010). Control is usually exercised by family members, school officials, coworkers, neighbourhood residents, police, and others. Family members, however, are the major source of control given their close relationship with the person.
The level of control is related to the extent that family members and others provide the person with rules that prohibit criminal behaviour and that limit the opportunities and temptations for crime (Sampson, (2000)). However in the organized crime families these rules are the opposite, an individual’s behaviour is rewarded when crime occurs. In most families the individual conforms to the values of the family and they think about what they have to lose by engaging in crime, and this is a major deterrence to committing crimes, however in an organized crime family it would be the other way around.
As illustrated in the study Criminology and the Sociology of Organizations (Vaughan, 2002), families, like organizations, are basically structured the same regardless of their size, they have common goals, values, division of labour and hierarchy. Individuals may carry out the acts, but they are influenced by the social and cultural environment to which they belong. Within all families there is a definite structure, and organizing principles or values, that allow it to grow and mature. As can be seen with the early Sicilian Mafia families (Ianni, 1973), it began as a relatively small nterprise that was set up to protect the poor and underprivileged against the rich and powerful, which eventually changed into a much larger enterprise based in multiple branches and locations. Over time the crime family itself allows for growth and opens the door for opportunity. If people have a strong emotional attachment to traditional role models, like family members and teachers, they have more to lose by engaging in crime (Greer Litton Fox and Michae lL. Benson, 2000), however in the organized crime family the closer they are to the family the more they have to gain by engaging in crime.
As demonstrated in A Family Business (Ianni, 1973), the ties and bonds of kinship is what keeps the family strong and the code of loyalty and silence determines the individual’s role within the family structure. In summary, as we can see the theories presented support the argument that growing up in an environment that not only endorses criminal activity, but teaches that it is an acceptable way of life, that it’s a part of the family values, and that it is the means to wealth and power, is pretty much a guarantee that a person will go into a life of crime.
The bonds of kinship and loyalty are so strong in organized crime families that to go against the family is not an option (Ianni, 1973). The power and wealth that illegal activities bring to these families, the respect and place on the social ladder, is what keeps the family in the crime business. As stated earlier the society that condemns this type of behaviour is the same society that drives the behaviour in the first place, by placing so much emphasis on wealth, power, place on the social ladder, and determining a person’s worth by what they have and who they are, is what leads a person to seek these goals any way they can.
As with the Rizzuto family (Nicaso, 2010), all families have values and beliefs that they live by, but unlike the Rizzuto family, most of us grow up learning that crime is wrong and that to get ahead in life we need to work hard and get a good education and that if we do these things we will be rewarded. In sum, crime is less likely when others try to positively control the person’s behaviour or when the person has a lot to lose by engaging in crime, and when the person tries to control his or her own behaviour. In ontrast, when a person has a lot to gain by engaging in criminal activity and their behaviour is controlled but in a way that encourages criminal acts, then a person is more likely to lead a life of crime, as seen in the Rizzuto family, the father taught the son and they are surrounded by other family members engaged in criminal activity (Nicaso, 2010). Bibliography 1. Du Bois, W. (2002). Crime in Society: Sociological Understandings and Societal Implications. In R. A. Straus, Using Sociology: An introduction from the applied and clinical perspectives (pp. pp, 199-223).
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