Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Rethinking prostitution: Analyzing an informal sector industry

Marjolein Katrien van der Veen, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation conducts a class analysis of prostitution using the class analytical framework developed over recent years by AESA (the Association of Economic and Social Analysis). It remedies the neglect of class analyses of sex work in the literature on this industry, and demonstrates the very different insights such an analysis makes possible. It moves beyond the debates on prostitution that interrogate the buying and selling (or commodification) of sex on the market, to analyze the very high rates of profit (or surplus extraction) circulating within some sectors of this industry. It argues that there exist different class structures of prostitution (slave, feudal, independent, capitalist, and communal), which differently impact the rates of surplus extraction, the services produced by sex workers, and their working conditions in general. More specifically, the dissertation argues that the class relations of prostitution affect the extent to which sex workers are able to choose their clients, the number of clients they see, the services they provide, and thus their ability to protect themselves from unsafe, dangerous, or degrading work. The dissertation also demonstrates the unique influence of culture, politics, and the law in shaping the economics of prostitution, and thereby offers a new kind of economic analysis of the contemporary sex industry. The various moral judgments, laws, social policies, court decisions, enforcement standards, informal policing practices, and industry self-regulation shape and constrain in particular ways the earnings obtained by sex workers, the prices of prostitution services, and generally the cost and revenue flows within the sex industry. The dissertation draws on a comparison of the different regulatory climate in the U.S. and in the Netherlands to show how different moral and regulatory regimes prohibiting or permitting prostitution activities can contribute to the emergence of new class structures of prostitution and the suppression of others. The dissertation thereby contributes to the current rethinking and debates over prostitution as a contemporary industry with powerful social effects. ^

Subject Area

Women's studies|Labor economics|Economic theory

Recommended Citation

van der Veen, Marjolein Katrien, "Rethinking prostitution: Analyzing an informal sector industry" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3039400.