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Fighting the Mafia in Palermo

This book concentrates on a central issue in research on democratic processes: the development of generalised trust. The existence of generalised trust and confidence in a society is decisive for economic development and an effective democracy. Is it possible to fight persistent values of distrust and non-cooperation? Is it possible to support the development of generalised trust through public action and education? The book addresses these questions by examining political efforts to combat Palermo's Mafia-controlled heritage and to turn a tradition of non-cooperation and distrust into cooperation and trust. In particular, it focuses on the school program launched by Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo, during the mid-1990s, which was designed to break the Mafia's territorial and mental control, to restore citizens' rights and to promote a civic consciousness based on the rule of law. Combining theories on social capital and civic education, the book presents and analyses quantitative and qualitative research carried out in seven public schools in Palermo, some situated in extremely difficult areas dominated by drugs, violence and organised crime.

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Carina Gunnarson

Research shows that the existence of social capital in a society — or, in the context of the study described in this book, more specifically generalised trust — could be decisive not only in the prevention of crime, but also for economic development and an effective democracy. Although generalised trust and cooperation are highly desirable for any society — and many societies are indeed marked by high levels of trust and cooperation — societies may fall into a negative cycle of distrust and non-cooperation, which is difficult to break. This book explores institutional explanations and more recent political efforts to break the heritage of the past, that is, to turn the vicious circle of non-cooperation into a virtuous circle based on trust and cooperation, and to change citizens' perceptions of society. It looks at Palermo, a city in Italy where school policy represented a cultural warfare, where the dominant role model offered by the Mafia was challenged. The book focuses on a top-down action to change a predominating political culture of distrust, that is, by civic education at a grass-roots level.

in Cultural warfare and trust
Carina Gunnarson

This chapter starts with a discussion of the different definitions of trust (bridging versus bonding trust, generalised versus particularised trust, moralistic versus strategic trust, vertical trust). This is followed by a presentation of theories from two different discourses: the literature on social capital and that on civic education. What are the sources of generalised trust? The chapter discusses major explanations of the origins of generalised trust, as these relate to organisations, family, the economy and institutions. It also reviews the literature on civic education and discusses factors in the school environment that may influence students' values, such as the formal curriculum, the school and classroom climate, and teachers' experience, educational background or personal values.

in Cultural warfare and trust
Abstract only
Carina Gunnarson

This chapter discusses the research design and the methods used to select areas, schools and classes. It also discusses the composition of the questionnaire, drop-out rates (internal and external), how trust was measured, the questions' validity and reliability, and practicalities related to the organisation and distribution of the questionnaire. The point of departure was that Palermo represents a case where change is least likely to occur. The project focus was on the school programme in four of Palermo's most deprived areas, as ‘the worst of the worst case scenarios’. The selected areas share several characteristics: high density of criminality and Mafia dominance, low socio-economic level and weak presence of government agencies or other associations. In the study, general questions were combined with questions about students' trust in specific groups: categories of citizens whom students did not know personally, people living in the area, Palermitans, Sicilians, Italians and foreigners. There were three general questions on trust and cooperation.

in Cultural warfare and trust
Abstract only
Carina Gunnarson

This chapter discusses different aspects of the Mafia in Italy, first by describing the organisation in itself, as an institution parallel to and independent of the state. The focus is on the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, although some comparisons are made with other Italian Mafia groupings. The chapter argues that the relation between the Mafia and the state should be understood as an exchange relation, although some sectors are more penetrated by Mafia interests than others. The chapter then looks at the Mafia's territorial control and the weakness of the state and shows that the Mafia's power is closely related to its control over a specific territory, including control over the citizens who are living in that area. It also considers the Mafia's mental control and argues that the Mafia has actively used some Sicilian values as a means to render its activities more legitimate. The sway of the Mafia is not only a consequence of distrust: it is also a promoter of distrust. The chapter concludes by discussing the Mafia and its role in politics.

in Cultural warfare and trust
Abstract only
Carina Gunnarson

While a great deal has been written on the Mafia in Sicily, there is less literature on the anti-Mafia movement. The first part of this chapter gives a general background to Leoluca Orlando's political programme during the 1990s, the so-called ‘Palermitan renaissance’, when he was mayor of Palermo. Thereafter the chapter focuses on national, regional and local initiatives to fight against the Mafia in public schools, with a particular emphasis on school policy during the 1990s. What were the most important aspects of Orlando's cultural warfare against the Mafia? What were its objectives? Which were the strategies chosen? To what extent may the programme be described as a success or a failure? The chapter starts with a brief outline of the anti-Mafia movement. It continues with a description of civic education in Italy and the school policy in Palermo that sought to break the Mafia's territorial and mental control. It also discusses strong forces against Orlando's urban planning and examines the return of small-scale clientelism as well as increased interest in civic education in Palermo under Orlando.

in Cultural warfare and trust
Carina Gunnarson

This chapter presents descriptive statistics on students' trust in public institutions in Palermo. Distrust of government institutions is frequently mentioned in literature pertaining to the Mafia, and is often referred to in literature on southern Italy in general. The descriptive statistics presented in this chapter focus on students' attitudes to the state and its agencies, that is, their vertical trust. To what extent do students trust political institutions, for example the president, the mayor of Palermo, the political parties? What is their degree of trust in the police and the courts? Do they trust school? The statistics are based on the total samples of the two school surveys, distributed in October-November 2002 and February-March 2005. The chapter also looks at descriptive statistics regarding students' attitudes to the police and the concept of omertà and highlights differences or similarities between different socio-economic areas.

in Cultural warfare and trust
Carina Gunnarson

This chapter offers a descriptive analysis of Palermo students' level of interpersonal or generalised trust, with emphasis on their trust in others. In the literature on Italy, southern Italians are often described as less trustful than people in other parts of Italy. In this chapter, the statistics are based on the two questionnaires, distributed in 2002 and 2005. Statistics are presented for total samples and by socio-economic area. Different types of questions are used in order to analyse students' perceptions of other people. Two standard questions on trust that are frequently employed in international and national surveys and that are closely related are fielded: ‘Generally speaking, do you believe that most people can be trusted or that nobody can be trusted?’, and ‘Do you believe that most people try to help each other or that people generally only think about themselves?’. The chapter examines how much trust students have in family, relatives, and neighbours; how much trust they have in their classmates, teachers, school principals, and school staff; and their degree of trust in Palermitans, Sicilians, Italians or foreigners.

in Cultural warfare and trust
Carina Gunnarson

This chapter discusses the results of the Letter Project, where students in four selected classes in Palermo were invited to write private letters on different themes during their three years at lower secondary school. A total of 222 letters were received, on four themes: ‘A normal day in my life’, ‘My district’, ‘Relations with other people’ and ‘Reflections on important events at school’. The analysis of students' letters is organised according to different themes. The first consists of students' description of school life, including their perception of school, interaction with teachers, social interaction with peers, and experiences of school excursions. The chapter also includes students' narratives about trust in other persons and their descriptions of the residents and their neighbourhoods. How do these young people reason about trust? Do they believe that people in general can be trusted, or are they cautious when dealing with other people? What motivates their perceptions on trust? This chapter presents students' own stories about trust and cooperation.

in Cultural warfare and trust
Abstract only
Carina Gunnarson

This book has raised the question of whether it is possible to fight persistent values of distrust and non-cooperation in Palermo. Is it possible to support the development of trust between citizens through public action from above, through civic education? A general criticism of Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work is that he neglected state agency and the Mafia in his analytical model, when explaining the lack of trust in southern Italy. This book has focused on institutional explanations and has analysed more recent political efforts to break the heritage of the past, that is, to turn the vicious circle of non-cooperation into a virtuous circle based on trust and cooperation. The primary aim of the project is to contribute to theories on social capital, and particularly to analyse whether institutions matter for the development of generalised trust. In the book, the impact of educational institutions on students' generalised trust has been explored. Letters from the Letter Project offered insights on why different variables were important, if not all of them, for students' development of generalised trust.

in Cultural warfare and trust