Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Professor Pat O'Malley

Position: Distinguished Honorary Professor

School or Centre:

Research School of Social Sciences
School of Sociology

Email: Pat.O'

Location: External


Professor Pat O’Malley FASSA
MA (Dist) (Sociology), PhD (Sociology)

Researcher profile:

Areas of expertise

• Social Theory
• Risk and Governance
• Criminological Theory
• Sociology of Law and Security
• Punishment and Criminal Justice

Research interests

My research has focused on three closely linked questions:

• In what ways has a focus on risk-prediction and risk-taking come to shape how we governed, and how we are expected to live our lives?
• How far and in what ways  has ‘neoliberalism’ shaped contemporary governance and how adequate is this idea for understanding contemporary political and social order?
• What have been the principal ways in which criminal justice has been changing over the past twenty years, and what broader social implications does this have?

This work has carried me into researching very diverse areas of life, including:

•  Crime and punishment
•  Accidents, law and insurance
•  Terrorism and crime prevention
•  The place of excitement and risk-taking in modern life
•  The politics and technology of urban fire protection
•  Money and criminal justice

Biography and interests

• After a false start in the public service I worked through the 1980s and 1990s in academic and research positions in sociology departments  and law schools New Zealand, England and Australia.
• Moving to La Trobe University in the late 1980s,  I became Director of the National Centre for Socio-legal Studies and was involved in several large scale crime prevention projects, including research into harm minimising projects dealing with illicit drug use.
• This  resulted in career-formative experiences when I was  appointed to two Victorian government drug commissions and to work on management of petrol sniffing in remote Aboriginal communities. From this I developed an abiding concern with the ways we constitute social ‘problems’ through the kinds of ‘problem’ we imagine them to be, and how in consequence we govern them and shape them.
• In 2002, after being Head of the School of Law and Legal Studies at La Trobe University,  and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law and Management, I was appointed Canada Research Chair in  Criminology in Ottawa. In  2007 I returned home to be Professorial Research Fellow in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney.
• Retiring in 2013, I became Honorary Professor at Sydney Law School and Adjunct Research Professor at Carleton University in Canada while continuing my research into criminal justice.  In that year I was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and in 2016 was appointed Distinguished Honorary Professor at the ANU.


• Smith, G.J.D. and Pat O’Malley (2016) ‘Driving politics: data driven governance and resistance’. The British Journal of Criminology, DOI 10.1093/bjc/azw075
• Pat O’Malley (2016) ‘Risk, power and crime prevention.’ in M. Bosworth (ed.) Theoretical Criminology. London: Routledge
• Pat O’Malley (2016) ‘Risk, law and security’. In C. Candlin, J. Crichton and A Firkins (eds.) Communicating Risk. London: Palgrave MacMillan pp85-102
• Pat O’Malley (2015) ‘Uncertainty makes us free. Insurance and liberal rationality’. In L. Darash and P. Rabinow (eds.) Modes of Uncertainty. Stanford: Stanford University Press pp13-28
• Pat O’Malley (2015) ‘Policing the Risk Society in the 21st century’   Policing and Society 25:426-312014 
• P. O’Malley and Mariana Valverde. (2015) ‘The governmentalization of law and criminal justice.’ In M. Dubber (ed.) Foundational Texts in Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press pp. 317-334
• Pat O’Malley (2013) ‘Telemetric policing’. Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. New York: Springer Verlag Pages 5135-45
• Pat O’Malley (2013) ‘Biopolitical Justice.‘ in B. Golder (ed.) Michel Foucault: Law, Government, Rights.  London: Routledge.
• Pat O’Malley (2013) ‘Mass preventive justice’, in A. Ashworth and L. Zedner (eds.) Prevention and the Limits of Criminal Law. Oxford: Hart Publishing pp273-95
• Pat O’Malley (2013)  ‘Monetary Sanctions’ in J. Simon and R. Sparks (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Punishment and Society London:Sage. pp 375-392
• Pat O’Malley (2010) Crime and Risk.  London: Sage (Translated into Japanese by Hideyuki Hirai. Tokyo: Seikyu-sya)
• Pat O’Malley (2010) ‘Resilient subjects. Uncertainty, warfare and resilience.’ Economy and Society 39:488-509
• Pat O’Malley (2010)‘Simulated Justice. Risk, Money and Telemetric Policing.’ British Journal of Criminology. 50: 795-807 (Awarded 2011 Radzinowicz Prize)
• Pat O’Malley (2009) The Currency of Justice. Fines and Damages in Consumer Society. London: Routledge/Cavendish



  • The Thorsten Sellin and Sheldon and Eleanor Gleuck Award, American Society of Criminology (2000)
  • The Radzinowicz Memorial Prize, British Journal of Criminology (2011)

Research projects

• How has excitement’ shifted its meanings and social distribution since the 19th century, and what are the legal and social implications of the  deeply ambivalent place it holds in current culture and government?
• How far does money– in the form of fines, damages and insurance compensation– provide the key to a more sustainable and less expansive, oppressive and resource-greedy system of criminal justice?
• What are the consequences for ‘expert’ criminology of the development of the internet and associated popular participation in an informational politics of crime?


I would very happy to consider with respect to supervision any project that fits with the broad array of research interests and research projects mentioned above.  

Past student projects:

• ‘Policing’ and Aboriginal night patrols.
• The genealogy of security intelligence.
• Women drug dealers in Melbourne.
• The ‘punitive turn’ in Canadian criminal justice.
• Crime and the ‘fear factor’.
• Policing the postmodern city
• Neoliberalism and international drug policies.

Visit dates

31 October 2016 - 31 December 2020

Updated: 15 May 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher