The population centers provide an administrative link Between the region and the national polity, politically integrating Calabria into the Italian state. Traditionally, because of the economic focus of the town upon the needs of the estates, local leadership was drawn from the landowning families, if they were resident in town, or from the numbers of the leasehold masters of the estates. Like much of southern Italy, the region was historically plagued by bandits, against whose depradations the estate guards were expected to defend. However, this arrangement often resulted in the abuse of authority by the guards themselves, who then became an extortionate and violent class. The strongly held social value of individualism makes it difficult for individuals to operate in groups larger than the family, but on occasions that require the recruitment of outside help—to conduct official business, secure a job, or the like—such transactions are frequently couched in the terms of a patron-client relationship.
Local police enforce the official law in the community, and courts mete out punishment. However, informal sanctions also play a major role in ensuring that Individuals comply with local norms and standards of behavior. Gossip is a powerful means of social control and is most frequently concerned with allegations regarding the honor or virtue (or lack of same) of an offending individual or family.