Between structure and agency: Assassination, social forces, and the production of the criminal subject

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Assassins are often regarded as ahistorical figures of evil. In this article, I contest this view by analysing the assassination of President William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz in 1901. There are two purposes to this article. The first is to situate McKinley's assassination within the history and development of the social sciences, principally sociology, rather than assume that the assassin is a trans-historical representation of willful irresponsibility. The second is to describe and critique the discourse that made Czolgosz into a rational agent once he entered history as an assassin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-88
Number of pages16
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011



  • Leon Czolgosz
  • agency
  • assassination
  • social forces
  • structure

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