The Italian organized crime was probably born even before the Unification of the country. Thanks to the Italian troubled history, it was easy for the various organizations to establish some kind of political legitimation.
Before the Unification, they claimed to be protecting the population against the corrupted and ineffective Governments of the pre-unitary States.
After Unification, ironically the criminal organization became associated to the former rulers deposed by Italy, protecting and enforcing their “legitimate claims”. Crucially, one of the deposed rulers was the Pope, which gave enormous legitimacy to the subjects operating against the new Government.
During World War II the organized crime, which has been subjected to a half-harted persecution by the fascist regime, became some sort of “liberator” after the Allied invasion of Southern Italy in 1943. According to some sources, the Mafia even cooperated with the US intelligence before the landings, using its American branch as a mediator.
During the Cold War, the organized crime become perceived as the only bulwark against communism in the poor, underdeveloped and predominantly agricultural regions of Southern Italy. Again the interests shared with the Authorities probably evolved into a real alliance, secretly negotiated by high-ranking politicians and law enforcement officials.
In 2015 Italy, a country which is laboriously struggling to exit the 2009 crisis, the organized crime is trying to legitimize itself as the only employer available to the young people. “The organized crime is the only subject giving credit to young people,” warned Roberto Saviano, a famous writer and organized crime expert.
In the era of media and social networks, the organized crime is also trying to find a place in popular culture. There is a rich musical production dedicated to organized crime and the glorification of its bosses, especially in the area of Naples. The lavish funeral of a local boss recently celebrated in Rome showed how important are appearances to manage an underworld empire. Some days ago in Paternò, Sicily, the local Chief of Police ordered the removal of a giant poster celebrating the Baptism of the baby son of a local boss. The baby was exalted as “Cosa Nostra”, “a member of the family”.