Social Organization. Maltese society is stratified. There are a small number of generally landed and comfortably well-off nobles, some of whose patents go back to the Middle Ages. Of the commoners, the professional classes, including the clergy, traditionally were accorded the highest esteem, and peasants the lowest. The considerable wealth acquired by many traders, business owners, contractors, and some politicians since independence has created a new elite. Generally, a rather egalitarian ideology prevails. With the exception of professionals, who are addressed by their titles, people are quick to use first names. In the villages and urban neighborhoods, nicknames are widely used as a term of reference and even address. In spite of a campaign of nation building and class-based political mobilization following World War II, family ties remain the primary focus of allegiance.
Political Organization. Malta is a republic with a sixty-five-member unicameral parliamentary government elected every five years by means of proportional representation, with single transferable votes from thirteen five-member constituencies. Political control since independence has passed Between the Malta Labour party (1971-1987) and the Nationalist party (1962-1971, 1987-). The voting strength of the two parties is almost equal. Administered for centuries as a fortress, the Malta government is still highly centralized. AU services are run from Valletta. There are no mayors, headmen, or councillors who represent or administer individual towns or villages.
Social Control. The country's small scale, large police force, established court system, and powerful church and its citizens' face-to-face knowledge of each other ensure tight Social control.
Conflict. Maltese society is riven with conflict. The corrosive competition between the Nationalist party and the Malta Labour party affects all dimensions of Maltese social life. The middle-of-the-road NP generally has the support of the professional classes, the self-employed, and the church. The Socialist MLP is generally favored by the industrialized working population. Many towns and villages are further divided by rivalry between those supporting different patron saints and parishes. Both national and parochial competition is often accompanied by excessive abuse and even physical violence. At the interpersonal level, the Maltese are very litigious.