It should be noted in RealLife that there are in fact ''two'' Mafias: the '''Sicilian''' Mafia and the '''American''' Mafia. The first has operated in Sicily at least since the unification of Italy (and possibly much longer, though most of their history has been heavily romanticized). It limits its membership to Sicilian males with no police relatives, and despite massive prosecutions in Italy starting from the [=1980s=], they still have a heavy presence in Sicily today. They accomplished this by sending politicians on their payroll straight to Parliament, and sadly the reveal of an MP sitting in the national anti-Mafia commission to have ties or suspected ties with Cosa Nostra is not that infrequent.

The American Mafia began with loosely-knit protection gangs known as ''Black Hands,'' taking orders from emigrated Sicilian mafiosi. Charles "Lucky" Luciano, both a member of the Sicilian Mafia (under Joe Masseria) and a graduate of the infamous Italian-American Five Points Gang, drew members from other parts of Italy (or rather other parts of ''Little'' Italy) under his umbrella, knocked off the old hats (known in the day as "Mustache Petes"), and reorganized the American Mafia along territorial lines. Each city in the country was given to one family, except for New York, which famously got five. This structure, along with the "Commission" (an executive body designed for resolving disputes, which included at its inception the five New York City bosses, the boss from Buffalo, and Chicago boss Al Capone; the modern "Commission" is the five New York City Bosses) is generally believed to have held up today, despite heavy law enforcement pressure. Modern-day candidates for "made guys" must be "of Italian descent," which can mean varying things according to which family is making the decision; some families, such as the Chicago Outfit, do not heavily stress the "made guy" role and do a lot of business with associates of non-Italian ethnicity (indeed, the "Chicago Outfit" was originally a coalition of many ethnic gangs, including Irish, Italians, Jews, and Poles, under the leadership of Al Capone's predecessor Johnny Torrio, who all agreed not to interfere with the other gangs' bootlegging operations; the Italians, being the most organized and having connections to the massive operations in New York, were merely first among equals); other families such as the Bonanno family of New York have substantial "zip" (imported Sicilian mafiosi) factions and are more stringent in regards to who they do business with.

Both Mafias (and similar Italian groups such as the Camorra,[[note]]From Napoli. Amusingly (unless you live in Napoli), they actually ''are'' in the [[Series/TheSopranos waste-management business]]; the mismanagement of municipal waste collection under Camorra-linked contractors has been [[ an ongoing issue in the city]].[[/note]] Sacra Corona Unita,[[note]]From Puglia, the "heel" and "Achilles' tendon" of the Italian "boot". The name means "United Sacred Crown."[[/note]] and the 'Ndrangheta[[note]]From Calabria, the "toe" of the "boot", particularly noted for its thuggishness, rusticity, and ludicrous influence since the early 1990s. Seriously, although their reputation is more or less "stupid, violent country bumpkins," ''this'' is the most powerful gang in all Italy--largely on account of their extreme measures taken to ensure that their members are indoctrinated young and extreme penalties for becoming a ''pentito''.[[/note]]) generally operate in the same manner: collection of protection money, "street taxes" on independent criminals, union racketeering, out-and-out larceny, and gambling make up most of the income, with drug money and prostitution being big moneymakers for some parts of the family. Each "rank" within the Mafia taxes the one below it (fixed sums for capos, a percentage for soldiers and associates); money only goes from downstream to upstream. Despite the law of ''omertà'' and considerable sanctions for speaking to law enforcement, a number of mafiosi in both countries (and one boss, Joe Massino) have turned state's evidence/become a ''pentito'' (Italian term for the same thing) to save themselves from long prison terms.

As a bit of a sidebar, different families have different reputations, accurate or not. These are particularly strong with the non-New York mob (the New York mob being seen as the "vanilla" Mafia): the Detroit Partnership is noted for its brutality and its connections with the unions (that whole Teamsters/Jimmy Hoffa business? Detroit), the South Florida Mafia for its complex relationship with Cubans and longing for the halcyon days of the '50s (when the Cubans were in Cuba as partners instead of being in Miami [[TheCartel as rivals]]), the Los Angeles mob is often seen as weak and incompetent (nicknamed the "Mickey Mouse Mafia"), the Chicago Outfit is inextricably linked in the public imagination to bootlegging and Al Capone, etc. The New York and Chicago mobs (particularly the latter) are often seen as having influence beyond their region. New York families have strong influence in Montreal, New Jersey, and Philadelphia--often playing kingmaker in these outfits (see, e.g.: Philip "The Chicken Man" Testa--you know [[Music/BruceSpringsteen the one they blew up in Philly last night]]--whose death was the result of tensions between pro- and anti-New York factions in the Philly mob; see also [[Series/TheSopranos the most famous depiction of a non-New York, non-Chicago American Mafia outfit]]). Meanwhile, Chicago has traditionally controlled everything west of it.

Here are the ranks:

* '''Capo di tutti i capi''' - the Boss of all Bosses in a particular area. More a media title than anything of significance in the American or Sicilian Mob; crime family bosses are ''peers'' and don't pay tribute to or take orders from each other. The only boss to ever claim this title for himself was [[BigBadWannabe Salvatore Maranzano]] after [[WonTheWarLostThePeace "winning"]] the Castellammarese War, and he got to enjoy it for less than six months before his nominal [[TheStarscream second-in-command]] [[MagnificentBastard Lucky Luciano]] and his fellow Young Turks [[DeadlyEuphemism retired]] the title, and [[ChronicBackstabbingDisorder Maranzano along with it]]. An older term, ''capo consigliere'', denoted the first among equals of the New York bosses, who would arbitrate disputes between families, this went by the wayside during the Castellamarese War and was never reestablished afterwards.
* '''The Commission''': Luciano's answer to the ''capo di tutti i capi'' title. Originally consisted of the five New York bosses, the Buffalo boss, and UsefulNotes/AlCapone, with [[TheManBehindTheMan substantial input]] from "associates" such as Meyer Lansky. Later pared down to just the five New York bosses (with the Bonnano family sitting out occasionally due to their disunity), with Chicago doing its own thing; the idea worked so well that the Sicilian Mafia created a similar body. Contrary to popular belief, does not "rule" the Mafia (see above re: bosses, orders, and tribute), it's intended to be a body for settling disputes that might otherwise lead to violations of "honor" and all-out war--think more of a UnitedNations of the Underworld rather than a King of the Mafia (or even a Parliament of the Mafia).

In each family:
* '''Capofamiglia/Representante''' (Boss) - Crime boss of a particular family. "Don" is an honorific, not a title: in today's Italy it's reserved to ''priests''. Since Mafia families in Sicily are more numerous and smaller than those in the United States, the title is not as distinguished, although the boss still has paramount authority within his region. "Hits" on individuals under his family's protection are at the sole discretion of the boss, and the boss also decides who is allowed to become a formal member of the family. Much of the boss's duties consist of settling disputes (holding "sitdowns") between family members and other crime families, and he receives a tribute from the family's captains (and rarely, soldiers and associates serving directly under him).
* '''Capobastone/Sottocapo/Vicecapo''' - The Underboss, usually inherits the Boss title if the Boss is unavailable (death, prison, etc...). In some cases, the underboss may control what amounts to a family within the family (and be given the lucrative position to ensure nominal loyalty), other times, he may be a flunky kept strictly under the boss's thumb. The latter type are often "knocked down" (demoted), or "whacked" (take a guess) when their patron is no longer guiding their fortunes. Will collect tribute from most of the family's captains (some, known as "king's men" have the honor of handing theirs directly to the boss), taking a hefty cut before passing it up, and may be in charge of larger rackets requiring citywide coordination (for example, sports betting, which requires bookies across an urban area to hedge each other's bets to collect profit with minimum risk). It should be noted that ''Capobastone'' is used mainly within the 'Ndrangheta, though.
* '''Acting Boss/Street Boss''' - A rank unique to the American Mafia, appearing in response to the increase in the number of racketeering convictions since the 1980's, rendering most "official" bosses and underbosses no longer at liberty to control the day-to-day operations of their families. Thus responsibility ends up being delegated to a capo (who still operates his own crew in the meantime) who can send a "messenger" to receive orders from the boss and pass along tribute. Even when bosses are free, this structure is at times maintained as a facade to prevent law enforcement from determining where exactly orders are coming from. May in fact be the de facto boss in all but name, especially if the official boss is old, ill, or kept incommunicado in prison, and if the Street Boss would rather keep a lower-profile. (Note: This, essentially, was the rank [[Series/TheSopranos Tony Soprano]] occupied for most of the series.)
* '''[[TheConsigliere Consigliere]]''' - The adviser/right hand man, only third (or fourth counting the Godfather) is that the adviser keeps the legal face of the family and sometimes acts as the family lawyer. In theory, he is the only one allowed to argue with the Boss, when he thinks what the boss is doing could destroy the family. Most "consigliere" types in media (such as [[TropeMaker Tom Hagen]]) are actually based on Mob ''lawyers''. Though the Commission specified a counselor in each family to act as their eyes and ears, most RealLife mob bosses treated it as a lower-level position. Many families use the position for an experienced member who knows the ins and outs of the family's power, but does not wish to rise to the boss or underboss position for whatever reason. Chicago would be a subversion, with the "consigliere" being a sort of "boss emeritus" (mobster Tony Accardo held this title, and exercised real control of the Chicago Outfit while letting proteges such as Sam Giancana or Joey Aiuppa hold the title of boss). A consigliere generally has one soldier underneath him as an aide-de-camp and source of additional income; the lack of attachment to a crew supposedly makes him more "impartial" and obviously makes him less powerful.
* '''Capodecina/Caporegime''' - Also known as a captain, skipper, ''capo'', or "crew chief," the ''caporegime'' may oversee as many soldiers as he can efficiently control. Grants permission for all criminal activities in his crew (unauthorized activities may run afoul of another crew or another family's rackets), collects a share of every score, and passes a fixed sum on to the boss of the family. Captains are, in effect, the family's "middle management." Their control over the family's earners and shooters gives them a great deal of power, and they are often the kingmakers if the boss position becomes vacant. The latter title is unique to the Italian-American Mafia.
* '''Soldato/Picciotto''' - a soldier, "wiseguy", "button man", or "made guy." This is the lowest level of mobster or gangster who is considered a full member of the "family". A "soldier" must have taken an oath in which he has sworn to follow the rules of the Mafia (such as the ''omertà''), and in some organizations must have killed a person in order to be considered "made."[[note]]Since talking about killings is considered verboten, there's a bit of leeway with this requirement.[[/note]] This entitles them to the full protection of the family in question. Killing or assaulting a soldier, or even infringing on their rackets without permission of their boss, is considered a grievous (usually fatal) offense. American mafiosi may refer to a made man among other made men (as in introducing them; two made men must always be formally introduced by a third party known to both, even if they're father and son) as "a friend of ours." ''Picciotto'' is used within the Sicilian Mafia and indicates someone of a lower rank than that of ''Soldato''.
* '''Associates''' - "''Giovane d'onore''" (man of honor), "''cugino''" (cousin), or "connected guy". An associate is a person who is not a soldier in a crime family, but works for them and shares in the execution of and profits from the criminal enterprise. In Italian criminal organizations, "associates" are usually members of the criminal organization who are not of Italian descent, or junior members who may someday rise to become soldiers for the family; this process can take a decade or longer depending upon the family and the individual's qualifications. This can be tricky sometimes; associates with a history of making serious money often command respect beyond their title (Jimmy Burke of ''Wiseguy'' and ''Film/{{Goodfellas}}'' fame, barred from being made on account of being Irish and not Italian, was a de facto ''capo'' for the Lucchese family in the '60s and '70s due to his high-dollar heists). Distinctions are usually drawn between those associates loosely associated with the family, and those who have gone "on record" with a specific soldier or captain; the latter are more tightly controlled in their dealings and are usually candidates for membership. American mafiosi may refer to an associate as "a friend of mine" (rather than "a friend of ours," a quiet warning to watch what is said in their presence). ''Giovane d'onore'' is unique to the Camorra.
** Note: At one time, one had to be full-blooded Italian to be a full member of the Mafia, but rules seem to have become a touch more flexible as time went on.

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