James H. Mittleman’s article, “Global Organized Crime,” shed light on just how much globalization has evolved the organized crime that we think of today. While there has always been a strong interdependence between countries and their underground criminal practices, modern technologies such as computers and telephones have made it that much easier to link modern-day mafias. One point he made in particular stood out to me the most. He says, “To take a single example of these dynamics at work, consider Chinese emigration to the United States” (Mittleman 226). This phrase in particular made me think of one of my favorite movies and how well it displays organized crime and globalization: Francis Ford Coppola’s ever-classic “The Godfather.”
“The Godfather: Part I” tells the story of an Italian mob-boss and family living in an all-Italian neighborhood of New York. In order to ensure their safety, the Corleone family must control the streets through underground crime. Not only does this show the direct impact of immigration and organized crime (the immigrants brought their “old world” grudges to the “new world”), but it also shows how crime techniques and technologies are brought from one country to another. Crime organizations from one country tend to take note of another country’s, as seen during the Cold War when other systems began “stealing nuclear materials mainly from the former Soviet Union” (Mittleman 226). In this case, organized crime moves into the world economic system, as countries turned to their neighbors in the search for the materials to create these new weapons. Globalization truly does link organized crime from nation to nation, whether in an alliance or in defiance.
When I thought of “The Godfather” in terms of Giddens, the connections he made between travel, abstracts systems, and trust came to mind. After other members of the “Five Families”—the top Mafia families in the country at the time—killed the brother of the main character, Michael Corleone, it was determined that Michael would flee the country and seek refuge in Italy. While the viewer is to believe that travel will protect Michael, we find out this is not the case; a few years after establishing a life in Italy, the same family who killed his brother makes a murder attempt on Michael. A “normal” person would probably never think twice of who is “out to get them” while on an airplane or whether to sleep with one eye open while staying in a hotel. Though the movie may be an exaggeration for film, one’s sense of basic trust (both with abstract systems and others) is compromised when involved with organized crime, both in travel and other aspects. Giddens writes, “Trust in persons, as Erikson emphasizes, is built upon mutuality of responses and involvement: faith in the integrity of another is a prime source of feeling integrity and authenticity to the self” (114). This raises an interesting aspect of what the globalization of organized crime does to oneself: if one cannot trust the world around him, can one trust himself? What would our world be like if organized crime was not on a global scale; what would we, as humans, be like without globally organized crime?