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Final Thoughts on Human Agency and Crime: Reply to Brezina (2021) and Piquero (2021) on Behalf of Paternoster

This essay provides information and final thoughts about a recent academic exchange in the Journal of Developmental and Life Course Criminology regarding Paternoster (2017) on human agency

Published onNov 26, 2021
Final Thoughts on Human Agency and Crime: Reply to Brezina (2021) and Piquero (2021) on Behalf of Paternoster

This essay continues a recent academic exchange which appeared in Journal of Developmental and Life Course Criminology (JDLCC) regarding Paternoster’s (2017) Happenings, Acts, and Actions: Articulating the Meaning and Implications of Human Agency for Criminology. JDLCC published challenges to Paternoster (2017) by Cullen (2017), Brezina (2020), and Piquero (2020). In Thomas, Pogarsky, and Loughran (2021), we argued that these critiques were misguided, but most significantly we clarified Paternoster’s (2017) explicit (incompatibilist) position on human agency. Of the original three critics, Brezina (2021) and Piquero (2021) responded, while Cullen refrained. We proposed to editor Paul Mazerolle of JDLCC a final reply to clarify outstanding issues (e.g., the notion of “contextless agency”) and elaborate some methodological implications of Paternoster (2017). By email on September 10th, 2021, Prof. Mazerolle granted us a final reply with the proposed content. We submitted this reply to JDLCC on September 20th, 2021. On October 21st, 2021, Prof. Mazerolle desk rejected this reply stating that JDLCC had already “dedicated a lot of space” to the issue of agency, and he did not deem our reply worthy of publication in JDLCC. On October 27, 2021, we detailed our concerns to editor Mazerolle about his decision, and requested that he reconsider. We explained how the two latest replies contained misimpressions and, in several cases, demonstrable errors about Paternoster’s (2017) agency. As of November 15, 2021, Professor Mazerolle has not responded. Our decision to disseminate this reply arises from our passion that Paternoster’s (2017) sophisticated theorizing be accurately and fairly represented in criminological discourse. Brezina (2021) and Piquero (2021) both argue that we recognize only one definition of agency, despite the fact that we wrote Brezina offered a different definition of agency, one that was incompatible with Paternoster’s. Our read of Brezina (2021) suggests that he agrees with us on the central arguments in our initial rejoinder—that his view of agency is not a middle ground between Paternoster and Cullen, and that his approach embraces positivism. In contrast, Piquero (2021) doubles down and continues to argue that Paternoster’s agency is compatible with positivism. Yet a simple read demonstrates that Paternoster (2017) explicitly rejected Piquero’s (2021) arguments, four years before Piquero made them. We also address the criticism that Paternoster’s view of agency is ”contextless” and we heed Brezina’s call to outline the methodological implications of incompatibilist agency.

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