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Transformative Politics of Sustainability and Citizen Municipalism

This project aims to explore contemporary political institutions that have emerged after the right to the city-movements in Barcelona and their relationship with ecological citizenship. Claiming the right to the city involves more than issues of access to urban amenities: It is also about claiming the right to participate in the formation and transformation of the city. This emphasis on claiming rights for (trans) formation positions right to the city-movements within the larger issue of citizenship. In this context, this project explores the citizen municipalism in Barcelona, which has emerged as a municipal platform after Spain’s 15M-right to the city movement. By mobilizing neighborhoods, citizen municipalism aims to initiate a politics of change by reclaiming institutions in order to create an ecologically and socially just society. The case of Barcelona en Comu is a unique illustration of citizen municipalism in practice as it serves both as an elected institutional body in the municipality and a platform of different social-ecological movements.

By analyzing the case of Barcelona en Comu, project also explores the concept of ecological citizenship by analyzing strategies and potentials of this initiative regarding socio-ecological change and improvement of citizenship practices. The concept of ecological citizenship has emerged from critiques of liberal democracy, highlighting the limited degree of citizen participation in areas that generate ecological problems, e.g. decisions about consumption, investment strategies, production and technology (Barry 1999, Dobson 2003, Barry and Eckersley 2005). From this perspective, the reconstruction of citizenship as ecological citizenship underlines the responsibilities and obligations of the citizen in the framework of a sustainable society and in relation to unrepresented or underrepresented collectives. It explores the role of the citizen in the politics of change towards a sustainable society and asks: How can citizen platforms like Barcelona en Comu foster ecological democratic principles and illustrate its limitations? What types of new policies and strategies does Barcelona en Comu have for social and ecological sustainability? What synergies and tensions occur by institutionalizing ‘right to the city’? The project argues that such initiatives can contribute to the development of active and participatory political space and practices of citizenship while enabling institutions and policies for a change towards a more sustainable society.

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