Integrating assumptions about crime, people, and society: toward a unified criminology

Download Integrating assumptions about crime, people, and society: toward a unified criminology

Post on 22-Mar-2017




0 download

Embed Size (px)


<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [The University of Manchester Library]On: 21 November 2014, At: 03:01Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Journal of Criminal Justice EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>Integrating assumptions about crime,people, and society: toward a unifiedcriminologyDawn L. Rothe aa Old Dominion UniversityPublished online: 11 Jan 2013.</p><p>To cite this article: Dawn L. Rothe (2013) Integrating assumptions about crime, people, andsociety: toward a unified criminology, Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 24:2, 264-266, DOI:10.1080/10511253.2012.757431</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Agnew, Robert. 2011. Integrating assumptions about crime, people, andsociety: toward a unified criminology. New York and London: New York</p><p>University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-0508-7 (hbk), ISBN 978-0-8147-0509-4 (pbk).pp. 202.</p><p>Integrating Assumptions about Crime, People, and Society: Toward a Unified</p><p>Criminology is a welcome addition to criminological scholarship. For far toolong there has been silence among mainstream criminologists regarding the</p><p>many divisions within the field. I applaud Agnews efforts to bring attention toand discussion of these differences, with the ultimate goal of integrating the</p><p>divergent, and in many cases contradictory, underlying assumptions, defini-tions, and standards. To begin, Agnew focuses on the issue of how crimeshould be defined. Given that the legal code has been the prominent standard</p><p>for mainstream criminologists, it was refreshing to see a scholar who hasfocused primarily on traditional criminology call into question this foundational</p><p>standard. He notes that crime should be defined as blameworthy harms thatare condemned by the public and/or sanctioned by the state. Agnew merges</p><p>the legalistic standard with acts not defined as crime by legislation, yet can beconsidered harmful, incorporating customary laws and human rights. This is an</p><p>important step in bringing together mainstream and critical criminologicaltopics of study. However, this definition could also suggest that some crimesthat are sanctioned by the state may not have blameworthy harm or be</p><p>condemned by the general public, implying that some acts should not beviewed as such (e.g. prostitution or gambling).</p><p>In the third and fourth chapters, Agnew reviews the time old philosophicaldebate of human nature: determinism, agentic (bounded or full agency) and</p><p>blank slate, rational, irrational, self-interested-hedonistic, symbiotic or altruis-tic. Although theories are guided by one or more of these assumptions, rarely</p><p>will you find one that explicitly discusses these assumptions or its impact on thetheory, research, or proposed policy. Furthermore, while some criminologists</p><p>have these discussions with students during a criminological theory course, moreoften than not, they are ignored. In an effort to integrate these differentperspectives on human nature, Agnew suggests that humans have agency that</p><p>ranges on a continuum from determined to free-will that may be bounded byindividual (biological, psychological, neurological) and environmental factors.</p><p>Specifically, he sees variation in where some individuals have more freedom ofchoice and action than others and that the amount of freedom varies across</p><p>circumstances. Agency here is defined less in terms of free-will and choices butmore in terms of a process from thought, to deliberation, to action. Recognizing</p><p>the complexities of human nature, Agnew further suggests that humans areself-interested, rational, and socially concerned blank slates. However, giventhe centuries-old debates of human nature and our inability to verify any such</p><p>claims, caution should be given to assumptions that merge these very distinctand opposite claims of basic human nature. After all, how can one be fully</p><p>264 BOOK REVIEWS</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>The</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f M</p><p>anch</p><p>este</p><p>r L</p><p>ibra</p><p>ry] </p><p>at 0</p><p>3:01</p><p> 21 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>determined and have agency? If one believes that humans are free-willed (evenbounded), they cannot be determined by a greater cosmos or master plan.</p><p>Beyond the level of individuals, however, is the structure of a society. Hereagain, Agnew recognizes that for far too long, mainstream criminologists have</p><p>neglected the impact of structure on agency and vice versa and he attempts tointegrate the conflicting views about consensus and conflict societies. In doingso, he suggests that both exist: the degree of the groups in a specific time</p><p>period and society, and the domain or issue being examined. Simply, theextent and nature of consensus/conflict varies; in some societies, a pluralistic</p><p>model might apply, but in others a single group may have the large share ofpower. This is of course a simplistic rendition of Agnews integrated approach</p><p>and variables impacting each of these. Yet, of most importance is the recogni-tion that such structural factors impact not only communities, groups, and</p><p>individuals, but also the approach of criminological research and subsequentpolicy suggestions.</p><p>Chapter six delves into the issue of objective vs. subjective reality and howthat impacts criminological methods and research. Here, Agnew drawsattention to the positivistic and constructionist approach to understanding</p><p>crime, criminality, and the responses to both. Here again, while quantitativemethods have dominated criminology, Agnew makes a strong argument as to</p><p>why an integrated approach to data makes a more sound and holistic under-standing. Here, efforts are to bridge the subjective and objective viewpoints</p><p>of the nature of reality. After all, through socially constructed understandings,100 people can look at a rock and name it as a rock but define it or see it very</p><p>differently. Putting those descriptions together can give us a better sense ofhow a society or group sees and understands the rock to be.</p><p>The final chapter brings together the discussions of the previous chapters</p><p>to reiterate what an integrated and unified approach could be. Agnew statesthat while there are conflicting underlying assumptions that has kept the field</p><p>of criminology divided, there is truth in each, though when isolated, cannotfully explain crime or criminality. Simply, crime is a blameworthy harm that is</p><p>publicly condemned and/or sanctioned by the state and it is stronglyinfluenced by the exercise of agency as well as factors beyond an individuals</p><p>control. Additionally, there exists a reality that we can begin to measure in away that minimizes (but does not eliminate) bias, recognizing both, subjective</p><p>and objective views of reality and the importance of including the subjectiveviews of individuals. This objective/subjective nature of reality also is relatedto the societal level where things are socially constructed, reified and come to</p><p>be seen as objective. Likewise, Agnew suggests that societies are composed ofboth consensus and conflict, with varying degrees impacted by the context,</p><p>culture, history, groups involved, and specific issue.While at times, as Agnew himself admits, the discussion of the fields of</p><p>critical criminology in particular is very simplistic, it is the first effort by amajor, well-known criminologist to incorporate the critical perspective within</p><p>the confines of mainstream criminology. Of course, as Agnew acknowledges,</p><p>BOOK REVIEWS 265</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>The</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f M</p><p>anch</p><p>este</p><p>r L</p><p>ibra</p><p>ry] </p><p>at 0</p><p>3:01</p><p> 21 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li><li><p>there is much needed discussion and debate on many of the proposed inte-grated approaches, including some remaining definitional issues. For example,</p><p>the notion of public for public condemned blameworthy harms needs to beclarified. More importantly, we need to discuss if it is ever possible to have all</p><p>theories correct in partas none can be wrong. Additionally, by integratingall of these assumptions and theories, would a theoretical model be useful anylonger, or is it possible to explain more fully all criminality with one general</p><p>theory? This is especially true with the broadened scope of acts falling underblameworthy harms.</p><p>Overall, the most significant contribution of this volume is its effort tounify and integrate a highly divisive field, to enable it to move forward, and to</p><p>contribute something beyond explaining small variances of criminality. Thisalone makes the book a must read for students and scholars alike.</p><p> 2013 Dawn L. RotheOld Dominion UniversityE-mail:</p><p></p><p>266 BOOK REVIEWS</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>The</p><p> Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f M</p><p>anch</p><p>este</p><p>r L</p><p>ibra</p><p>ry] </p><p>at 0</p><p>3:01</p><p> 21 </p><p>Nov</p><p>embe</p><p>r 20</p><p>14 </p></li></ul>


View more >