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School of Geography

Case Study Cities - Barcelona


Case-study: Barcelona (Spain) 

Fieldwork: Fall 2011

Authors: Ramon Ribera-Fumaz (local researcher) & Ugo Rossi (guest researcher)

Title: Neoliberalising Barcelona: the local crisis of a globalized model


In urban policy making circles, Barcelona has been elevated as a global ‘role model’ for regeneration and exemplar of ‘universal global best practice’ (de Jong and Edelenbos 2007: 690). ‘Barcelona has in the past 10 to 15 years become the outstanding  example of a certain way of improving cities, within both this Mediterranean world and in Europe, Latin America and even globally’ (Marshall 2004: 1).

However, the Barcelona Model referenced in policy and academic international circles has mutated dramatically in the last decades from a social and cultural regeneration practices towards (cultural) economic rationalities based on the emergence of the Knowledge based economy (KBE) and a focus on enhancing the urban competitiveness of the city. As the Barcelona model has been transformed it has also become a “commodity” in itself having an impact both in city politics and in urban international policy cercles.

In this context, the severe impact of global crisis and their subsequent draconian fiscal measures in Spain have been intertwined with the very own crisis of the “Barcelona model”. These processes have been at the core of two major changes in the city: the change of city council government after a 30-years-in-power left administration and the rise of the indignados movement, mostly composed by young urban people unemployed or working in very precarious jobs.

This case study explores how both the financial and Barcelona urban model crises have opened room for changes in governmental rationalities and for their contestation. It will analyse which new discourses and rationalities are emerging and whose city (model) is being produced.

To do so, the case study focuses on (a) the struggles around the inability of KBE-creative strategies to guarantee an economic and social base for the city, and (b) the impact of the crisis  in the production of the Barcelona model as translocally transferable model.