Varese, Federico. Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Brown, Lee
Pub Date: 03/22/2012
Publication: Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308
Issue: Date: Spring-Summer, 2012 Source Volume: 87 Source Issue: 1-2
Topic: NamedWork: Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Varese, Federico
Accession Number: 294895904
Full Text: Varese, Federico. Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011. x + 278 pages. Cloth, $35.00.

Federico Varese's research into the possibility of economic globalization by mafia families establishes a groundwork model for examining other forms of expanding criminal enterprises. The unit of analysis, 'mafia', is defined as "a group that supplies protection in the territory of origin" or more precisely "extra-legal governance" (p. 4). Varese's book examines whether or not 'protection' is mobile? His method of employing a 'possibility principle' allows for a sharper understanding of the dependent variable by illustrating the conditions under which transplantation was not successful as outlined in his 'Factors' tables (p. 29). Varese, the Director of the Extra-Legal Governance Institute at the University of Oxford, defines 'transplantation' as the ability of a mafia "to operate an outpost over a sustained period outside its region of origin" (p. 6). The meaning of 'sustained period' is open to debate.

Varese's central goal is to illustrate why mafia transplantation succeeds or fails. Through extensive research and interviews with knowledgeable individuals on both sides of the law, the author diagrams the factors that must align for transplantation to be effective. The conditions that lead to the success of an expansion into new territories are both man-made (New York City) and circumstantial (Bardonecchia, Italy). Some mafia family members fled for 'personal health' reasons but many more were physically forced to relocate. Varese shows that controlling crime is a problem that impacts every aspect of society. Whether that method is incarceration or transplantation the entire community is effected directly or indirectly by the activities and costs of this new segment of the population. What, then, is the best method for eradicating, or, at a minimum, controlling the expansion of organized crime across territorial borders? Clearly, relocation of criminals (soggiorno obbligato) is ineffective under most conditions and imprisonment leads to criminal net working. In other words, both options are flawed. Varese notes that in many cases of relocation the operatives are victims of bad luck and not necessarily entrepreneurs.

Varese offers an exceptional model for determining the importance and outcome of the independent variables. Economic booms, lack of legal or illegal competition, and low levels of civic engagement combined with a lack of government rules and enforcement are some of the variables that create fertile territory for the transplantation of a criminal enterprise. The author's use of Robert D. Putnam's "Bowling Alone" criteria to measure civic engagement reveals a broad cross-discipline use of materials to ensure a high level of accuracy (p. 27). However, the absence of a single variable was shown to play a critical role in the success or failure of transplantation. In some case studies, the absence of a single independent variable led to failure. In other cases, the inclusion of all of Varese's independent variables revealed minor and, as yet to be determined, sustained success of relocation. This begs the question: Can transplantation be stopped by eliminating any one of the variables or are the variables case specific?

Varese briefly discusses the role that democratization plays in the success of criminal transplantation. A slow switch to a new form of government ideology contributes to success created by a new and ineffective government bureaucracy. Local officials are more susceptible to corruption during the democratization process thereby ensuring a lack of enforcement. Once a democratic government is established a new market opens for criminal enterprises, that is, the buying of votes. Though not listed in the author's variables, the role of the media is discussed as a possible tool against successful transplantation. It has the power to increase levels of civic awareness and participation, making it difficult for criminal organizations to operate in the open. However, the same problems arise if these organizations are able to control the media through bribery or physical intimidation.

Certainly Varese's concept of the 'property-right theory of mafia emergence' could be applied to other groups or organizations as an increasing number of Third World countries display upward economic mobility. Through his model, Varese illustrates that simple mobility is not the only variable to sustained success. The expansion of organized crime affects the economic, moral, political, and social fabric of a society. Future questions are opened by Varese's study. The wide range of mafia 'markets' examined by the author does not reveal the possibility of success based in 'new technological' criminal markets. Granted alcohol, corruption, drugs, prostitution, and protection may never be replaced by technology, but new forms of criminal protection may open to organized criminal entrepreneurs. Ethnic gangs are another area open to research. Their expansion appears to be rooted more in sociology for recruitment and creating new markets for economic gain. Identifying the variables that have contributed to their transplantation is an area worthy of future study.

Overall, this book is intriguing. The characters' names were somewhat confusing within each region. Place names also caused some confusion and could have been clarified with better mapping. The opening vignette was a compelling hook, but the unveiling of the culprit was akin to reading a Colin Dexter novel. Dexter's Inspector Morse solves the mystery, but the road to 'who dunnit' is filled with twists and turns. As with any quality research, Varese's work creates more questions than answers.

Lee Brown, M.A.

Instructor of Government

Blinn College

Brenham, Texas
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.