Interdependence and Sustainable Collective Action: The case of four collective housing communities in Mexico City

Marina Montelongo Arana, Rafael Wittek

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademic


We study under which conditions collective action breaks down into some communities but keeps sustainable in others. The main purpose of our explorative qualitative study is to identify the micro-level pathways that lead to the maintenance and decay of collective action. Drawing on sharing group theory, and common pool resources theory, we claim that different interdependence settings lead to different types of cooperation, and that only under certain conditions, cooperation will remain stable over time. A multi method comparative case study approach was used. Interview, observational, video, and survey data was collected in four different low-income urban collective
housing communities in Mexico City in 2010. Content analysis reveals five major mechanisms linking interdependencies to cooperation or its absence. First, in all four communities, real property transfers and /or damages resulting from an earthquake triggered successful agency- collective action. Second, in all four communities, urgency-collective action resulted from events caused by the poor
construction quality of real estate. Third, repeated collective action in the form of recreational activities was found in those groups where inhabitants successfully capitalized the opportunities of a relative abundant space. It was also found where neighbours were able to organize around use and maintenance of common property. Four, powerful norm violating newcomers caused breakdown of cooperation in one community. Fifth, collective action was absent in the community where common space was scarcest. Here, scarcity triggered conflicts about access to and use of space. Our study contributes to the literature on cooperation by pointing to differences in interdependencies settings
and compliance to norms, as major indicators to predict sustainable collective action.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchitecture and Resilience on the Human Scale
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings
Place of PublicationSheffield
PublisherSchool of Architecture, University of Sheffield
ISBN (Print)978-0-9929705-4-3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventArchitecture and Resilience on the Human Scale Conference - Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 10-Sep-201512-Sep-2015


ConferenceArchitecture and Resilience on the Human Scale Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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