Crisis and Reorganization in Urban Dynamics: The Barcelona Case Study

38 Pages Posted: 8 May 2017

See all articles by Rafael Balanzó

Rafael Balanzó

Queens College, CUNY; Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC); City University of New York

Núria Rodríguez-Planas

City University New York (CUNY), Queens College; IZA Institute of Labor Economics


We use the adaptive cycle theory to improve our understanding of cycles of urban change in the city of Barcelona from 1953 to present. Most specifically, we explore the vulnerabilities and windows of opportunity these cycles for change introduced in the release (Ω) and reorganization (α) phases. In the two recurring cycles of urban change analyzed (before and after 1979), we observe two complementary loops. During the front-loop, financial and natural resources are efficiently exploited by homogenous dominant groups (private developers, the bourgeoisie, politicians or technocrats) with the objective to promote capital accumulation based on private (or private-public partnership) investments. In contrast, the back-loop emerges from Barcelona's heterogeneous urban social movements (neighborhood associations, activists, squatters, cooperatives and NGOs), whose objectives are diverse but converge in their discontent with the status-quo of conservation (the K phase) and their desire for a "common good" that includes social justice, social cohesion, participatory governance, and wellbeing for all. The heterogeneity of these social networks (shadow groups) fosters learning and social innovation and gives them the flexibility that the front-loop's dominant groups lack to trigger change not only within but also across spatial scale (local community-based, neighborhood, city) and time dimensions, promoting a cross-scale process of revolt and stabilization, also known as Panarchy.

Keywords: adaptive cycle theory, crisis, urban change dynamics, urbanresilience, social innovation, social justice, release (Ω) andreorganization (α) phases, back-loop, Barcelona's urbanplanning, Barcelona's urban (sustainable) design era andpanarchy

JEL Classification: Q01, Q57, R0

Suggested Citation

Balanzó, Rafael and Rodriguez-Planas, Nuria, Crisis and Reorganization in Urban Dynamics: The Barcelona Case Study. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10748, Available at SSRN:

Rafael Balanzó (Contact Author)

Queens College, CUNY ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) ( email )

C. Jordi Girona, 31
Barcelona, 08034

City University of New York ( email )

Convent Avenue and 137 Street
New York, NY 10031
United States

Nuria Rodriguez-Planas

City University New York (CUNY), Queens College ( email )

65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367-1597
United States

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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