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Paul James (academic)

Paul James (born 1958, Melbourne), is Professor of Globalization and Cultural Diversity at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia,[1] and a writer on globalization, sustainability, and social theory. He is Director of the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme, a UN International Secretariat with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and New York.[2]


  • Background 1
  • Contributions 2
  • Recognition 3
  • Criticism 4
  • Publications 5
    • Books authored 5.1
    • Books edited 5.2
  • References 6
  • External links 7


After studying politics at the University of Melbourne James was a lecturer in the Department of Politics at Monash University, Melbourne before moving to Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 2002 as Professor of Globalization and Cultural Diversity.[3]

At RMIT he led and secured funding for several successful initiatives, including the Global Cities Institute (Director, 2006–2013); the UN Global Compact Cities Programme (Director, 2007–present); and the Globalism Institute (Founding Director, 2002-2007; now, Globalism Research Centre) that brought scholars including Tom Nairn, Manfred Steger, Heikki Patomäki and Nevzat Soguk to RMIT.[4] He was appointed to a research position at the University of Western Sydney in 2014.[5]


James is primarily known as a theorist of globalization, particularly how local and national communities alter under an emergent level of global integration. His work has been read as challenging the simple notion of 'global flows' presented by other writers such Zygmunt Bauman and Arjun Appadurai.[6] Using a distinctive comparative method called 'constitutive abstraction' or 'engaged theory', he has contributed to theories of political culture, the changing nature of community, and the structures and subjectivities of social formation. He is author or editor of 25 books, including a Sage Publications series on globalization. The series, Central Currents in Globalization, is a collection of writings by key figures in the field of globalization. His collaborative work includes writing with other senior scholars such as Jonathan Friedman, Peter Mandaville, Tom Nairn, Heikki Patomäki, Manfred Steger and Christopher Wise, amongst others.

He co-edits Arena Journal (1986–present), a publication concerned with understanding the crisis-ridden transformations of our time, and is on the board of a dozen other journals.[7]

His work also contributes empirically to understanding contemporary politics and culture, particularly in Australia, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea. His research on sustainable community development laid part of the foundation for the 2007 legislation that went through the Papua New Parliament,[8] and was developed by the Minister for Community Development at the time, Dame Carol Kidu.

As Director of the UN Global Compact Cities Programme, James also works in the cross-over fields of urban sustainability and sustainable development.[9] He argues against the mainstream view that 'smart cities' are necessarily better or more sustainable cities, suggesting instead that it is the integration of learning and practice which makes for intelligent and sustainable cities.[10] Along these lines he is quoted as saying that London used the 2012 Olympics in an intelligent way 'where the economy, politics and culture thrive, aided by good transport and a strong information technology infrastructure, all built on a platform of ecological sustainability'.[11]

Consistent with this approach, he is one of the key developers of the 'Circles of Sustainability' method used by a number of cities around the world to respond to relatively intractable or complex issues.[12] That method takes the emphasis away from economic growth and suggests that cities should rather be aiming for social sustainability, including cultural resilience, political vibrancy, economic prosperity and ecological adaptation.[13]

As Research Director of

  • Academia - articles available for downloading
  • Cities Programme, UN Global Compact
  • Debate on Urban Growth"Economist". The Economist. 
  • Globalism Research Centre, RMIT University

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Cities Programme". The Cities Programme. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  3. ^ "James, Professor. Paul - RMIT University". Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  4. ^ "About the Globalism Research Centre - RMIT University". Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Bude, Heinz, and Jörg Durrschmidt. (2010). ‘What is Wrong with Globalization? Contra “flow speak” - Towards and Existential Turn in the Theory of Globalization’, European Journal of Social Theory 13 (4), 2010: 481–500.
  7. ^
  8. ^ The National, 11 January 2007, The National, 22 May 2009.
  9. ^ "Economist Debates: Cities: Statements". 2011-01-11. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  10. ^ Bruno Berthon, ‘Smart Cities: Can they Work?’ The Guardian, 1 June 2011.
  11. ^ Matthew Saltmarsh, ‘Will Olympics Save East London’, New York Times, 28 July 2011.
  12. ^ Amen, Mark, Noah J. Toly, Patricia L. Carney and Klaus Segbers, eds. (2011). Cities and Global Governance, Ashgate, Farnham.
  13. ^ Oliver Balch, ‘Forget Economic Growth, We need real Prosperity Instead’, The Guardian, 9 May 2013. See also, Tania Brangan, ‘The Biggest Movement in History’, The Guardian, 7 October 2011 and Tania Branigan, ‘China Becomes an Urban Nation at Breakneck Speed’, The Guardian, 2 October 2011.
  14. ^ Rothfield, Philipa, Cleo Fleming, Paul A. Komesaroff, eds. 2008. Pathways to Reconciliation: Between Theory and Practice, Ashgate, Aldershot.
  15. ^ Martin Flanagan, ‘Embracing the Wave of Compassion’, The Age, 9 October 2010.
  16. ^ ‘Progress should start in Communities, says Klapat’, The National, 11 January 2007; ‘Study on PNG Villages Published’, The National, 22 May 2009.
  17. ^ Roland Bleiker, ‘Global Matrix’, Australian Book Review, June–July 2006; Tristan Clayton, ‘Global Matrix’, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, vol. 23, no. 5, 2005, pp. 787–8; William Safran, ‘Nation Formation’, Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism, Vol. 29, Nos 1-2, 2002, pp. 161–63; Lars Bo Kaspersen, ‘Nation Formation’, The European Journal of Development Research, 2000; Paul Reynolds, ‘Nation Formation’, Capital and Class, no. 67, 1999, pp. 196–7; Bernt Jonsson, ‘Politics of Differences, Equality and Religion’, New Routes, vol. 3, no. 2, 1998, pp. 25–6;Philip Smith, ‘Nation Formation’, in Journal of Sociology, 34, 1, 1998, pp. 87–9; Andrew Vandenberg, `Nation Formation’ in Forum, no. 7, 1996, p. 5.
  18. ^ Parekh, Bhikhu. 1998. ‘Nation Formation’, Nations and Nationalism 4(2): 274


  • James, Paul; Tulloch, John (2010). Globalization and Culture, Vol. 1: Globalizing Communications. Sage Publications. 
  • James, Paul; Mandaville, Peter (2010). Globalization and Culture, Vol. 2: Globalizing Religions. Sage Publications. 
  • James, Paul; Szeman, Imre (2010). Globalization and Culture, Vol. 3: Global-Local Consumption. Sage Publications. 
  • James, Paul; Steger, Manfred (2010). Globalization and Culture, Vol. 4: Ideologies of Globalism. Sage Publications. 
  • Wise, C., and P. James (eds), 2010. Being Arab: Arabism and the Politics of Recognition. Melbourne: Arena Publications. ISBN 978-0-9804158-1-0
  • Grenfell, D., and P. James (eds), 2008. Rethinking Security, War and Violence: Beyond Savage Globalization? London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-43226-X, ISBN 978-0-4154-3226-9
  • Goodman, J., and P. James (eds), 2007, 2011, Nationalism and Global Solidarities: Alternative Projections to Neoliberal Globalisation. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-38504-0
  • James, P., and R. O’Brien (eds), 2007. Globalization and Economy: Vol. 4, Globalizing Labour. London: Sage. ISBN 978-1-4129-1952-4
  • James, P., and R. Palan (eds), 2007. Globalization and Economy: Vol. 3, Global Economic Regimes and Institutions. London: Sage. ISBN 978-1-4129-1952-4
  • James, P., and H. Patomäki (eds), 2007. Globalization and Economy: Vol. 2, Global Finance and the New Global Economy. London: Sage. ISBN 978-1-4129-1952-4
  • James, P., and B. Gills(eds), 2007. Globalization and Economy: Vol. 1, Global Markets and Capitalism . London: Sage. ISBN 978-1-4129-1952-4
  • James, Paul; Nairn, Tom (2006). Globalization and Violence, Vol. 1: Globalizing Empires, Old and New. London: Sage Publications.  James,
  • James, Paul, and Darby, Phillip (eds), 2006. Globalization and Violence: Vol. 2, Colonial and Postcolonial Globalizations. London: Sage. ISBN 1-4129-1954-1
  • James, Paul; Friedman, Jonathan (2006). Globalization and Violence, Vol. 3: Globalizing War and Intervention. London: Sage Publications. 
  • James, Paul; Sharma, RR (2006). Globalization and Violence, Vol. 4: Globalization and Violence: Transnational Conflict. London: Sage Publications. 
  • James, P. (ed.), 2000. Burning Down the House: Bonfire of the Universities. Melbourne: Association for the Public University with Arena Publications. ISBN 0-9598181-5-4
  • James, P., W. Veit and S. Wright (eds), 1997. Work of the Future: Global Perspectives. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86448-447-0
  • James, P. (ed.), 1996. The State in Question: Transformations of the Australian State. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86373-673-5
  • James, P. (ed.), 1994. Critical Politics: From the Personal to the Global. Melbourne: Arena Publications. ISBN 0-9598181-4-6
  • James, P. (ed.), 1990. Technocratic Dreaming: Of Very Fast Trains and Japanese Designer Cities. Melbourne: Left Book Club. ISBN 1-875285-03-2

Books edited

  • James, Paul; Nadarajah, Yaso; Haive, Karen; Stead, Victoria (2012). Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Development: Other Paths for Papua New Guineapdf download . Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 
  • James, Paul (2006). Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back In —Volume 2 of Towards a Theory of Abstract Community. London: Sage Publications. 
  • Nairn, Tom; James, Paul (2005). Global Matrix: Nationalism, Globalism and State-Terrorism. London and New York: Pluto Press. 
  • James, P., 2002. Tour of Duty: Winning Hearts and Minds in East Timor (with photographs by Matthew Sleeth). Melbourne: Hardie Grant Publishing. ISBN 0-9579553-1-6 hb ISBN 0 7453 2291 3 pb
  • James, P., 1996. Nation Formation: Towards a Theory of Abstract Community. London: Sage. ISBN 0-7619-5072-9 hb ISBN 0 7619 5073 7 pb. Winner of the 1996 Crisp Medal for Political Studies, Australasia

Books authored


In a similar vein, Bihku Parekh says that despite his comprehensive coverage, "James does not explore how the nation and the state are internally related such that the apparently strange idea of the nation-state was considered self-evident by many."[18]

Because his work has a general reach, criticisms of Paul James’ work tend to take the form of rebukes for what he does not do or challenges to take seriously mainstream considerations such as citizenship and social movement success.[17] For example, describing James’s book written with Tom Nairn, Global Matrix, Claudia Aradau (2007, p. 371) initially writes positively that: “Contradiction remains however the structuring principle of the book and a method of analysis. It allows the authors to think alternatives from ‘the field of our own ideological determinations’ (Balibar, 2004, p. 25)". However, she then goes onto to criticize the authors for failing to consider citizenship as one of the missing conceptions in the range of alternatives to the world in crisis that the authors describe.


  • Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (2010–present)
  • Melbourne Ambassador (2010–present)
  • Collaborating Advisor to the Minister for Community Development of Papua New Guinea (2004-2010); including contributing to drafting the Minister’s New Policy Document (2004) and the Corporate Plan (2004-2007)[16]
  • Bronze Medal, ‘Beyond the Frontiers of Knowledge’, awarded to the Community Sustainability International Project, Malaysia, by the University of Malaya (2005)
  • Member of the G20 Advisory Group to the Canadian Prime Minister (2004)
  • Crisp Medal by the Australasian Political Studies Association for the best book in the field of political studies (1996)
  • Australian Research Council Fellowship (1994-1996)
  • Japan-Australia Foundation Fellowship (1991)



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