The existence of a very powerful mafia in Italy is not merely a regional problem. The question it raises has far wider implications: are modern societies capable of establishing or re-establishing the rule of law in an area occupied in military fashion by a criminal organization that enjoys a certain degree of social support and a culture that deems it normal, even legitimate?
This question is made more complicated by a new uncertainty : the impact of the Internet. Who can make better use of it: the criminal networks or those who are trying to crack down on them? It is a matter that affects not only southern Italy but also areas like Corsica and the Basque country. And since corruption is increasingly visible everywhere, including in the old European democracies, this problem in reality blights the lives of more and more people.
The particular case of the Italian mafia is described here by André-Yves Portnoff. The mafiosi who control the Sicilian economy and society with impunity are having to cope with increasingly well-organized challenges to their insidious power. The rise, within Italian civil society, of resistance to the mafia presence, sustained by teachers, young people and the business community, introduces a new element in the situation because of its unprecedented strength, he explains. If the new government carries out its declared aims, the combination of the civic movement and action by the state could lead to the eradication of a cancer that has afflicted the country for more than a century.