We like Barcelona, and even thought of buying a little apartment there for when we need a dose of urban life. But we didn't. One reason was that the prices for what we thought were attractive spots, in the Ciutat Vella and the Born, were prohibitive, and most required long climbs up flights of narrow stairs. The other reason was that, as charming as the city is to visit, you wouldn't want to live there. Not if want to be more than a tourist, but a participant in the society. That at least was our impression, from the tone of political debates and what we could learn of cultural events. So we opted for Madrid, a much bigger city (3,256,000 pop. vs. Barcelona's 1,621,537), less charming but lots more active.
As Susana points out, all cities are run by coteries of little clans or "mafias" (in Argentina we call them camadas) trying to advance only their own. But in bigger, more diverse cities, like Madrid or New York, their are too many of them for any one to hold a monopoly. Beautiful Barcelona has a lot to offer, but there's an awful lot it withholds.
Boadella photo from Don't Disturb Magazine
Catalan writers in Spanish (article in Spanish)