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."

Bad Girls

Bad girls

In a recent attempt to develop a framework for explaining gendered crime, Darrell Steffensmeier and Emilie Allan (1991, p. 73) argue that men and women differ significantly in their “moral development,” and that “women's moral choices” constrain them from behavior that could be harmful to others. Because women are “bound more intimately into a network of interpersonal ties, their moral decisions are more influenced by empathy and compassion” and this “ethic of care” constructs nonviolence and “suggests that serious predatory crime is outside women's moral boundaries.”

Steffensmeier and Allan (1991) ignore the fact that there exists no “scholarship that demonstrates that the greater conformity of women is a function of their special virtues” (Naffine, 1987, p. 133). But beyond this, are females ...

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