Rescripting criminal identity: a “close reading” of contemporary biographies of British criminals as entrepreneurship discourse

Robert Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This research paper aims to examine how organized criminals rescript their identities to engage with entrepreneurship discourse when authoring their biographies. From a sociological perspective, stereotypes and social constructs of the entrepreneur and the criminal are subjects of recurring interest. Yet, despite the prevalence of the stereotype of the entrepreneur as a hero-figure in the entrepreneurship literature and the conflation of the entrepreneur with the stereotype of the businessman, notions of entrepreneurial identity are not fixed with constructions of the entrepreneur as a rascal, rogue or villain being accepted as alternative social constructs.

Design/methodology/approachThe qualitative approaches of “biographical analysis” and “close reading” adopted help us draw out discursive strategies.

FindingsThe main finding is that a particular genre of criminal biographies can be re-read as entrepreneur stories. The theme of nuanced entrepreneurial identities and in particular gangster discourse is under researched. In this study, by conducting a close reading of contemporary biographies of British criminals, the paper encounters self-representations of criminals who seek to author an alternative and more appealing social identity as entrepreneurs. That this re-scripting of personal biographies to make gangster stories conform to the genre of entrepreneur stories is of particular interest. 
Research limitations/implicationsThis study points to similarities and differences between criminal and entrepreneurial biographies. It also presents sociological insights into an alternative version of entrepreneurial identity and sociological constructions of the criminal as entrepreneur.

Practical implicationsThis research provides an insight into how criminals seek to legitimise their life-stories.

Originality/valueThis research paper is of value in that it is the first to consider contemporary biographies of British criminals as entrepreneurship discourse. Understanding how criminal biographies and entrepreneur stories share similar socially constructed themes, storylines and epistemologies contribute to the development of entrepreneurship and sociological research by examining entrepreneurship in an unusual social setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-339
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • biographical analysis
  • criminal biographies
  • criminal entrepreneurship
  • entrepreneur stories
  • moral biography
  • social constructionism


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