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Rule-breaking and legitimacy: a failure of artful navigation?

Warren, Lorraine; Smith, Robert


Lorraine Warren

Robert Smith


The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the tension between rule-breaking and legitimacy for entrepreneurs, who are expected to challenge and change social or business norms. In doing so, they may be presented as heroes in the media, or alternatively, are cast out as villains with attendant negative press and consequent loss of legitimacy. Through secondary data methods, the paper analyses the case of Vance Miller, an entrepreneur from the North of England who has achieved economic success amid reports of alleged criminality and poor ethical behaviour. Thus he spans rule-breaking and legitimacy. The paper illustrates how rule-breaking directed towards demonstrable entrepreneurial achievement does not always result in media legitimacy. Miller's storyline both chimes with and clashes with the discourse of the enterprise culture, providing a cautionary note for aspirant entrepreneurs. The hero-villain paradox remains relatively unexplored in the media, and thus further qualitative research is required, particularly for aspirant entrepreneurs with controversial or criminal backgrounds. Entrepreneurs should question carefully the extent and potential consequences of rule breaking in regard to legitimacy. The paper highlights and indeed questions the role of the media in their representations of entrepreneurship, and challenges the valorisation of rule-breaking behaviour by entrepreneurs. The paper makes a distinctive contribution to the literature by examining the relation between rule-breaking and legitimacy for an entrepreneur who is represented negatively in the media, yet remains successful, counter to the heroic stereotype.


WARREN, L. and SMITH, R. 2015. Rule-breaking and legitimacy: a failure of artful navigation? International journal of entrepreneurial behavior and research [online], 21(2), pages 243-262. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 2, 2014
Online Publication Date Apr 13, 2015
Publication Date Apr 30, 2015
Deposit Date Sep 19, 2016
Publicly Available Date Apr 14, 2017
Journal International journal of entrepreneurial behavior and research
Print ISSN 1355-2554
Electronic ISSN 1758-6534
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 2
Pages 243-262
Keywords Entrepreneurship; Enterprise culture; Media; Criminality; Rule breaking; Vance Miller
Public URL


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