Scalar Narratives in Bilbao: A Cultural Politics of Scales Approach to the Study of Urban Policy


In this article I explore how theoretical metaphors about the contemporary rescaling of the capitalist economy are used by local policy actors to justify an entrepreneurial urban policy. I develop a new theoretical concept (scalar narrative), suggest an analytical approach (cultural politics of scales) and give evidence of a particular case (Bilbao). The article is structured in the following way. First, I briefly review the literature on politics of scales and contribute to the debate with an approach that incorporates elements from cultural political economy and interpretative policy analysis. Within this approach I mobilize the concept of ‘scalar narrative’ that has already been suggested in the literature but not fully explored. I then put this approach into practice with a particular case study, Bilbao, a city in the north of Spain, which has recently gone through extensive urban regeneration, where I describe the appropriation of three scalar narratives by the policymakers. To show this I draw from empirical work done in Bilbao that looks at statutory and strategic planning documents as well as urban marketing literature and interviews with key informants.