Paul is a writer, broadcaster and the former Editor of the social affairs magazine New Society. He was awarded a research fellowship by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 for his work on suburbia which laid the foundation for his book; The Freedoms of Suburbia (Frances Lincoln, 2009).
He wrote on Michael Young’s legacy in The Rise and Rise of Meritocracy, edited by YF fellow Geoff Dench (Blackwell, 2006).
In 2012 he published Hebden Bridge: A Sense of Belonging (Frances Lincoln), in which he seeks to pin down what “a sense of place” means, and how communities interact. Described as “a classic in the making, the book weaves together social history, detailed interviews and personal/family memories. Local interview research material, mainly from 1970s, is held in the Paul Barker Collection at Pennine Horizons archive, Birchcliffe Centre, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. File material on a wide range of social and cultural subjects is held in a Paul Barker Collection at the Churchill Archive, Churchill College, Cambridge.
From 1968-86 he was the Editor of the social affairs journal New Society. One of the most contentious, and much cited, essays was first published on 20 March 1969, under the title, Non-Plan: An Experiment in Freedom. It proposed that much urban planning did more harm than good.
In 2001 the V&A mounted an exhibition of social documentary photography, under the title, The Other Britain Revisited, selected from a set of New Society original prints he donated to the museum.
He was a chair and trustee of the Institute for Community Studies.
Publications (as author, editor or contributor):
A Sociological Portrait (1972)
Arts in Society (1977, new edition 2006)
The Other Britain (1982)
Towards a New Landscape (1993)
Living as Equals(1996)
Town and Country (1998)
From Black Economy to Moment of Truth (2004)
Porcupines in Winter (2006)
The Rise and Rise of Meritocracy (2007)
The Freedoms of Suburbia (2009)
The Banham Lectures: Designing the future (2010)
Hebden Bridge: A Sense of Belonging (2012)
A Crooked Smile (2013)
The Dead Don’t Die (2014)