Macrohistory Seminar – Elena Esposito (University of Lausanne)

Event details

  • Thursday, May 17
  • 12:15 PM
  • Kaiserplatz 7-9, 4th floor, Room 4.006

The Sense of the State

According to a growing literature in economics, mafia-type organizations are a response to weak states. In several contexts, however, these organizations continue to persist and thrive even when state capacity is strengthened. This suggests that the perception of a weak and remote state may be, at least in part, grounded in cultural values shaped throughout history. In this paper, we conjecture that centuries of insecurity and ongoing external threats may have fed the perception of a weak state and, consequently, facilitated the spread of mafia-type organizations. To test the hypothesis, we collect data over a millennia of pirate attacks over the Italian coasts. Our results indicate that places with a history of attacks are more likely to experience mafia-type crime. To validate our hypothesis, we present results suggesting that in these places a weaker sense of central-state authority prevails.