Gangster vs Mobster
We hear the words gangster and mobster every now and then in media and read stories about their activities in newspapers. To a common man, the words have become synonymous for outlaws engaging in anti social activities. Gangster is a member of a gang while mobster is a member of the mob. Both a gang and a mob are similar to mafia that originated in Sicily, Italy as organized crime syndicate. In the beginning of 20th century, all such gangs and mobs were persecuted in Sicily, and as a result migrated to the US, where their activities gradually increased and included extortion, prostitution, gambling, drug and liquor trafficking, and so on. Though apparently mobster and gangster look alike and engage in similar activities, there are differences that will be highlighted in this article.
Gangster is a generic term applied to all those people who are involved in criminal activities in an organized manner. Whether it is bootleggers, racketeers, gamblers, or those involved in drug trafficking and prostitution, what is common to all such fellows is that they do not indulge in crime on their own; they are members or part of a larger group that has interests in more than a single activity. Gangsters live a poor lifestyle and are always on the run as far as confrontation with the authorities is concerned.
Mobster is a word that has come from the word Mob and it refers to an offshoot of the Italian Mafia in the US. Thus, Mob also means American Mafia and all those who are involved in organized crime. The word mob was first used in association with crime syndicate in Ireland and Irish mob soon became as infamous as Mafia from Sicily. Mobsters are very secretive, do not have a public identity and live a lavish lifestyle.
It was at the start of the 20th century that Mafia that was on the run because of suppression in Sicily, moved in large numbers to Chicago in US. A generation later, there was an offshoot of this mafia in the form of American Mafia, and these people came to be referred to as mob. The word mobster was more in currency till 1950, while it is common to refer to all such people as gangsters and not mobsters today. Common people remember them for abysmally low interest rate that mobster charged for loans they gave to people. But they turned nasty when they did not receive repayments.
As far as common perception is concerned, a black American comes to mind when one hears of the term gangster while an Italian with a fedora hat strikes the mind when one hears the word mobster. However, these are just stereotypes and there are no ethnic affiliations involved in modern times. The distinction between mobster and gangster has also blurred to a great extent and mafia a-la Sicily is hard to find these days.