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Home > People > Movements > Mob and Mafia Compared

Difference Between Mob and Mafia

Mob vs Mafia

If you have seen Godfather series of Hollywood movies, you probably know a lot about mafia. But if you haven’t, it refers to underground, organized criminal syndicate that has its origins in Sicily, Italy. There is another word mob that refers to criminal gangs involved in similar illegal activities. There are manysimilarities in the two terms and many believe them to be synonyms. However, the fact is that there are differences, and it is these differences that will be highlighted in this article.

There are many theories as for the origin of the word Mafia. In Arabic language, the word mafia means refuge. In 9th century, Sicily was occupied and ruled by Arabs. The natives were oppressed and to escape the tyrannical rule, they sought refuge in the hills of the islands found in Sicily. It was not just Arabs but Normans, French, Spanish, Germans, Austrians, and Greeks that invaded Sicily at different times and these refugees created a sense of brotherhood and unification. The organizations formed were hierarchical in nature and their dons were the heads of the families. They were the head of the mafias in a village or a small territory. Members of Mafia at all times have had to undergo several oaths beginning from code of silence, obedience to boss, assistance, and vengeance. Mafia members are also advised to stay clear of authorities. Mafia is engaged in all sorts of illegal activities such as drug trafficking, arms, extortion, and so on.

Mafia grew in influence and became very strong in the 19th and 20th century. It became a criminal society that was a syndicate in itself. They followed their own authority (read Don) and had clashes with the administration. Joining mafia was like adopting a religion and once one became a member of the Mafia, he could not retire and had to remain faithful in all circumstances. Those who have tried to turn informers have met very violent death at the hand of the Mafia.

The spread of mafia in US is because of immigration of some of the family members of Mafia to New York in the late 20th century. First to arrive in New York was Don Vito Cascio Ferro but soon many others followed suit when Mussolini in Italy led a crackdown on Mafia. There were lucrative opportunities for mafia in US and they expanded by recruiting local henchmen and other criminals. Many more Sicilians who were residing in New York joined the movement. Mafia in US ran extortion and protection racket but also indulged in bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling.

Mob is a generic term applied on individuals engaged in criminal activities in an organized manner. While Mafia has traditionally meant criminals belonging to families of Sicily involved in unlawful activities, Mob has no such restriction and people of all hues, irrespective of their ethnicity are termed as mob. Another difference lies in the way Mafia is structured. Mafia always has a hierarchical structure and the head is often the eldest member of the family who is also referred to as Don. Members rise from rank and file upon their performance and also their closeness to those who matter in Mafia. On the other hand, mob does not have a hierarchical structure and there is no allegiance to a single family. While leadership can change with assassination in mob at any point of time, even assassination of the Don simply means passage of authority to the next in hierarchy. If anything, mob is rather more shrouded in mystery whereas one is at least sure of power centers in a mafia.

One more differences between mafia and Mob pertains to the secrecy maintained by mob leaders. Whereas they avoid all contacts with authority and lead an anonymous life, the Dons of mafia families are known entities and they somehow seem to avoid brush with authorities. They are nevertheless, visible unlike leaders of mobs.


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