A captivating book that advances new developments in theoretical criminology, Crime as Structured Action explores the relation between structure and action and among gender, race, and class, both of which are at the forefront of contemporary debates in the social sciences. Author James W. Messerschmidt skillfully demonstrates that to understand crime we must appreciate how crime operates through a complex series of gender, race, and class practices. Crime must be examined by focusing on people in specific social settings, what they do to construct social relations and social structures, and how these social structures constrain and channel behavior in specific ways. The twin focal points of Messerschmidt's approach are the inseparability of structure and action and the situational salience of constructing gender, race, class, and those acts we label "crime."
In Chapter 1, I examined the relationship among large-scale social change, racial masculinities, and collective violence at a specific time and place in U.S. history. Chapter 2 shifts the analysis from the collective to the individual. Here I examine the life of Malcolm X as documented in one of the most significant works of the 20th century, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Malcolm X, 1964). The life-history perspective is particularly relevant because it richly documents personal gendered experiences and transformations over time. Indeed, a life history records “the relation between the social conditions that determine practice and the future social world that practice brings into being” (Connell, 1995a, p. 89).
Moreover, there is a long and illustrious criminological tradition of life history as a source ...