Professor Paul James

Director, Institute For Culture and Society

Portrait photo of Professor Paul JamesPaul James is a social theorist with three overlapping areas of research focus. The first is globalisation and its impact upon social relations, from national community to local community. The second is social change and the human condition, including the impact of modernisation on customary and traditional ways of being. The third is sustainability with an emphasis on sustainable urbanisation. These areas of focus are integrated through an approach to social theory called 'engaged theory', encompassing questions of social formation, social integration and ontological tension.

Across the last decade, Paul James been engaged in bringing out a sixteen-volume series called 'Central Currents in Globalization'. This collection maps the contours of a bourgeoning field that now crosses the boundaries of all the older disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. The set comprises approximately 7,000 pages and 3.5 million words. 

He has also been working on the issue of community resilience and urban sustainability. This research has gone in two directions. One massive research project in Papua New Guinea resulted in changes to the way in which that country approaches community development. The research has subsequently been written up in a book called Sustainable communities, sustainable development: other pathways for Papua New Guinea (2012). The second direction has been in the area of urban sustainability. This currently involves ongoing work with Metropolis and other organisations to develop an alternative model of urban development called 'Circles of Sustainability'. It is elaborated in a book called Urban sustainability in theory and practice: circles of sustainability (2015).

Paul James is Research Director of Global Reconciliation, an international organisation based in Australia that has been doing work in zones of conflict around the world including Sri Lanka and the Middle East, bringing people together in ongoing dialogue. He is on the Council of the Institute of Postcolonial Studies, Honorary Professor at King's College London, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (London). He is an editor of Arena Journal, as well as an editor/board-member of nine other international journals, including Globalizations and Global Governance. He has delivered invited addresses in over thirty countries and is author or editor of 31 books including, most importantly, Globalism, nationalism, tribalism (Sage, 2006). 

He has been an advisor to a number of agencies and governments including the Helsinki Process, the Canadian Prime Minister's G20 Forum, and the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor. His work for the Papua New Guinea Minister for Community Development became the basis for their Integrated Community Development Policy. He was Director of the United Nations Global Compact, Cities Programme (2007–2014).


  • PhD, 1991, Ashworth Social Theory Centre, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne.
  • BA (Hons), 1981, Department of Political Science, University of Melbourne.

Honours and Awards

  • Ongoing: Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, FRSA
  • 2013: Professorial Fellow, Columbia University, United States
  • 2007: Professorial Fellow, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 2006-08: Advisor to the Minister for Community Development, Papua New Guinea
  • 2005: Professorial Fellow, Washington University, St Louis
  • 2005: Bronze Medal, 'Beyond the Frontiers of Knowledge', University of Malaya
  • 2004: Advisor to the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, Timor Leste
  • 2002: British Academy award for international collaboration
  • 2000: Professorial Fellow, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 1997: Professorial Fellow, Justus-Liebig Universität, Germany
  • 1996: Crisp Medal, Australasian Political Studies Association for the best Australasian writing in political studies, 1994–1996
  • 1994-96: Australian Research Council Fellow
  • 1991: Japan-Australia People's Forum Fellow (1991) to give a series of public lectures in Japan

Selected Publications

Downloadable PDFs of sections of these books can be found on Paul James' profile (opens in a new window).

Ames, S, Barns, I, Hinkson, J, James, P, Preece, G & Sharp, G 2018, Religion in a secular age? The struggle for meaning in an abstracted world, Arena Publications, North Carlton, Australia.

Hinkson, J, James, P, Caddick, A, Cooper, Hinkson, M & Tout, D (eds) 2016, Cold war to hot planet: fifty years of Arena (opens in a new window), Arena Publications, Melbourne.

Pascoe, S, Rey, V & James, P (eds) 2015, Making modernity: from the Mashriq to the Maghreb, Arena Publications, Fitzroy.

Steger, MB & James, P (eds) 2015, Globalization: the career of a concept, Routledge, Abingdon.

James, P, with Magee, L, Scerri, A & Steger, M 2014, Urban sustainability in theory and practice: circles of sustainability, Routledge, London.

James, P (ed.) 2014, Globalization and politics, vol. 4: political philosophies of the globalSage Publications, London.

James, P & Mittelman, JH (eds) 2014, Globalization and politics, vol. 3: social theories of the global Sage Publications, London.

James, P & van Seters, P (eds) 2014, Globalization and politics, vol. 2: global social movements and global civil society , Sage Publications, London.

James, P & Soguk, N (eds) 2014, Globalization and politics, vol. 1: global political governanceSage Publications, London.

James, P, Nadarajah, Y, Haive, K & Stead, V 2012, Sustainable communities, sustainable development: other paths for Papua New Guinea, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.

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