THREE MOBS: Labor, Church and Mafia by Wilfrid Sheed

THREE MOBS: Labor, Church and Mafia

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Three separately published essays, grouped here around Sheed's reflections on the nature of ""subcultures"" -- those secondary allegiances and ""defining associations"" somewhere between nation and family which give us a social identity, a sense of belonging. For Sheed's purposes Labor (""there may not be a movement, but nobody wants to leave it""), the Church and the Mafia (""our parody example"") are all ""mobs"" whose continued vitality depends on keeping up ritual and a sense of clannishness among their members. When, after Vatican II, ""the Church shed its style it found it had nothing on underneath,"" found, too, that its ability to bind the faithful had been seriously impaired now that the Latin mass and the mystery were mostly gone. In ""Whatever Happened to the Labor Movement?"", the longest and most thoughtful piece here, Sheed is at his sparkling best when contrasting Labor's ecclesiastical pomp and ""grainy dignity"" to its pragmatic substance: George Meany and his council of union capos playing footsies under the negotiating table with Big Government and Big Business (""the two sides understand each other so well that people are beginning to talk""). ""Everybody's Mafia,"" entertaining but minor, is built on the simple paradox that although the Mafia as a single coherent crime family probably doesn't exist, its style is ubiquitous. Sheed is one of those exceptionally intelligent and penetrating critics whose vision cuts through the conventional pieties of Left and Right. Here his underlying theme is not unlike de Tocqueville's -- the plurality of subcultures in America is one of the surest antibodies against the malignancies of the uni-state.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1974
Publisher: Sheed & Ward