Corsicans - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The traditional Corsican village was more than an aggregate of families, more than physical geographic boundaries: it was a social unit of overlapping kin ties, maintained by preferential village endogamy; an Economic unit that could ensure subsistence of its members through access to communal lands; and a moral entity characterized by strong social control and conformity of its members—that is, it was a corporate group with well-defined collective rights and responsibilities. The most important intervillage unit was the pieve, a grouping of villages which (typically) shared the same valley and was defined in terms of the limits of marriage exchange; this traditional social Organization today is reflected in the boundaries of the French cantons.

Political Organization. Corsica was annexed to France in 1769, and was made a department in 1789 at the request of the inhabitants. The island's 360 communes are organized into 62 cantons. It is the local village and island politics, However, which most excite people's passions, because of their long tradition of effective local self-government. Also, in this society where the village community is the most important Social unit, the mayor is a man of great importance and wields significant power through his control of community property. The mayor is an elected representative, the head of the partitu with the greatest local support. The partitu (sometimes glossed as "clan") is an unstable alliance of families, kin groups, or other local political groupings. These political Subgroups support one or another of the leaders according to a variety of criteria, including kinship, clientism, sentiment, loyalty to alliances, services promised or received, etc.; voting as a block, they can use their electoral support to lobby for privileges and services and to enhance their position within the community. Corsican municipal politics, therefore, are nonideological; ideas or principles are far less important than power itself (a variation of "might makes right"). Although one of the few means by which families are unified at the subvillage level, this system—characterized by polarization and instability and by passionate and sometimes violent election campaigns that involve all kinds of strategies and coercion—also intensifies intravillage conflict and factionalism. The partitu has not lost relevance in modern Corsica, and in fact it has expanded its traditional role as mediator between the local community and the outside world: today, for example, partitu leaders use their ability to obtain social benefits such as pensions and welfare from the state as a major advantage with which to bargain for political support.

Social Control and Conflict. Traditionally, the lives of Individuals living in the small, insular villages of the island were subject to very strong social control by the community, especially in terms of the pervasive cultural value of "honor." Gossip was the principal mechanism by which the community evaluated and judged the behavior of individuals and Families; in extreme cases the vendetta, or blood feud, was employed to defend the family honor or enact justice or vengeance. A vendetta is usually between families, with responsibilities and limits defined in terms of degree of kinship distance from the perpetrator and victim; vendetta violence, however, varies considerably in intensity and frequency by Region. State control and justice has traditionally been ineffective against indigenous forms of informal control, although today the vendetta is gradually losing prestige and it is becoming more and more acceptable to seek justice through the state legal system.

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