Crisis and (re-)Informalisation Processes: The Cases of Barcelona and Berlin

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Marc PRADEL , Department of Sociological Theory, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
With the economic crisis and the retreat of welfare services, European cities are witnessing the reemergence of informal practices creating reciprocity mechanisms and informal markets as well as non-formal, reciprocity-based forms of provision of housing, healthcare and other services. Nevertheless, the strength and the emergence of these practices takes place unevenly across these cities, depending on the impact of the crisis, the nature of the state and its multi-level governance and the institutional culture on the provision of policies.

This paper aims to compare, through historical and qualitative analysis, the role of informal practices in the provision of resources in two european citiesi in crisis: Barcelona and Berlín. As in many other southern european cities, the emergence of informal practices in Barcelona is key to understand the capacity of its inhabitants to overcome the perverse effects of the crisis. Historical analysis will show that the city was the scenario of informal practices until the eighties and that part of these practices are reapearing now. In Berlín, which fell into a deep economic and financial crisis with the reunification of the city in 1990, informal practices have been an element explaining the redevelopment of the city. Local administrations have tried to formalise informal activities negotiating and tolerating certain practices.

Both case studies show that processes of informalisation taking place in the current crisis are rooted in previous practices and the historical development of cities, that never saw a complete disappearence of these practices. Besides, the analysis shows how these practices have been selectively allowed by local administrations to ensure certain form of social cohesion.