Published on: Oxford Handbooks Online
This essay explores the extent to which six established Mafia groups (The Sicilian Mafia, the `Ndrangheta, the Italian American Mafia, the Hong Kong Triads, the Russian Mafia, and the Yakuza) are criminal organizations specializing in the supply of protection. It presents evidence relating to the nature of Mafia protection, specialization of protectors, and the origins of these six Mafias. It also discusses whether Mafias are instead engaged in extorting their victims and presents evidence of the negative effects of Mafia protection on the economy. The essay concludes that Mafia protection is a genuine commodity in many instances; that protectors tend to specialize; that when major economic transformations are not governed by local and national authorities, they give rise to a demand for protection; and that under certain conditions protectors can turn into purely predatory agents. Mafia protection, even when genuine, is provided without any consideration for fairness, justice, and rights.