State and Mafia
What is the difference between states and organized crime organizations? American sociologist Charles Tilly (here), in his famous essay War Making and State Making as Organized Crime argues, “If protection rackets represent organized crime at its smoothest, then war making and state making-quintessential protection rackets with the advantage of legitimacy-qualify as our largest examples of organized crime.”
In order to support this powerful statement Tilly gives an account of the development of the European modern state to demonstrate how, at their origins, there is nothing substantially different between the State and Organized Crime. “Early in the state-making process, many parties shared the right to use violence”, slowly however, certain Princes (Organized Crime bosses) prevailed. It is however false to believe that the elimination of local rivals led to an undisturbed domination of the winners, beyond the territory of medieval European city-states, power alone was not sufficient to rule. Thus in order to assure a stable control over a particular territory the ruler needed to make a pact with the population. In other words his power needed to be legitimate, not in some universalistic understanding of the word, but to the extent it reflected the normative expectations of the population of the given territory.
Thus the difference between the organized crime group and the state is in the level they manage to represent these normative expectations. This is what, in the long run, distinguished the violence produced by states from the violence delivered by anyone else.
Apart from contributing to the theoretical understanding of the concepts of the state and organized crime this debate could serve as a heavy critique of the neo-liberal right wing political attempts to promote, what they consider to be the only legitimate function of the state-that is physical protection. Tilly sees no essential difference between the monopoly of protection and the monopoly of coercion. In the sense of this critique the neo-liberal minimal state ideal is no different than the organized crime group.
-Niklas Luhmann, Law as a Social System, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004. (For the definition of law as a stabilizer of normative expectations within a society)
-Charles Tilly, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime”, in Peter B. Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Theda Skocpol (eds.), Bringing the State Back in, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985.
- Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, Basic Books, New York, 1974.