Extracting value from their environment: some observations on pimping and prostitution as entrepreneurship.
Christou, Maria L.
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There has been an upsurge in academic studies relating to the underclass as a marginalized group. Notwithstanding this, the literature seldom represents the underclass as an economically active grouping. This study counters this stance by considering street prostitutes and pimps as economically active members of an entrepreneurial underclass. Although previous studies have wrapped the prostitute (and particularly the Madame) in the mantle of entrepreneurship none have sought to do so in relation to the pimp who traditionally has been portrayed as a swaggering, flamboyant, violent, ruthless, calculating individual existing at the margins of society. In reality they remain an elusive and difficult to research genre. Few ever publicly accept the persona. Indeed, pimping runs contrary to accepted masculine doxa of what it means to be a man, making it deeply shameful to live off the immoral earnings of women. This paper, based upon the observations of the authors, adopts a semiotic perspective to re-focus these elusive characters in the entrepreneurial and criminological gaze. By concentrating upon prostitution and pimping as an entrepreneurial behaviour, and not on the prostitutes and pimps as entrepreneurial types, the paper contributes to extant knowledge by developing an appreciation of entrepreneurial strategies employed by them to create and extract value from their environment. The methodology circumvented the issues of access allowing a wider sociological discussion to develop, as well as highlighting other ethical issues of researching street level entrepreneurship.