Unformatted text preview: borate schemes for Poland in particular, As e conomic
geographer Trevor Barnes has remarked, this makes
reading Christaller's book somewhat 'disconcerting and
Christaller was interested in the spatial patterning
associated with the distribution o f towns and cities and the
causes o f those patterns. I f you have ever looked at a map
and wondered why the towns and villages are where they
are and how they relate to one another, or i f you have had
the chance t o look o ut o f an airplane window and wonder
about the pattern o f settlement you see below, you have
probably asked yourselr the same sorts o f questions.
Cbristaller asked, in the introduction to his book, 'how can
we find a general explanation ror the sizes, number, and
distribution o f towns? H ow can we discover the laws?' H e
believed 'tbat there is some ordering principle heretofore
unrecognized that governs their distribution' (1966; 2), H e
sought, therefore, to identifY the 'special economic
geographical laws' at work (1966: 3). Chris taller ad mired
the methodological approach o fWeber , and like him, devel
oped a theory based on simplification and abstraction which
was tben carefully made more complex by the systematic
incorporation o f factors from 'reality' ( I 966:
Christaller postulated that centralization is a governing
principle o f human settlement, a nd he refers to towns and
cities as 'central places' emphasizing their functional
t o t heir hinterland. Larger towns are
order' central places a nd small villages are 'lowest order'
central places, insofar as they are in relation to each other.
like Th(inen a nd W eber, he started w ith t he
assumptions o f the isotropic plain a nd individual rational
However, while both ThUnen a nd W eber were focused
o n p roduction, Chris taller focused o n the consumption
o f goods. Central places, for Christaller, are fundamentally
understood as retail centers; places where 'central goods,'
which could be either material things or intangible services,
are sold. A~ h e p ut it: ' the c onsumption o f central
is decisive in the development ofcentral places'
Each good o r service has its own threshold or m inimum
level o f d emand needed t o m aintain its provision and its o wn range, which he defined as the 'distance up to which
the dispersed population will still be willing to purchase
a good offered at a central place' (1966: 50). This decidedly
b ut p owerful insight makes intuitive sense.
Consider your own shopping behavior for example. H ow
far do you travel to purchase a lower order good such as
hread o r milk? H ow fur do you travel to shop for clothes?
H ow a bout for higher order goods such as a c omputer or
a car? T he threshold and range for each good can be
mapped and compared, providing an indication o f the
market area ror a particular item. W here the range is
greater than the threshold there is an opportunity for sellers
to generate a profit.
the range will be
Christaller recognized that i n
affected by population density and, as in Thlinen's model,
by transport roures such t hat the boundaries o f the range
might be extended o r c ontracted around the central place
a nd m ight n ot be organized exactly as a c oncentric ring
around the central place. The range will also be affected
by the presence o f o ther central places for, unlike in
ThUnen's o r W eber's models, Christaller was concerned
with soatial patterns in a region witb more than one central
O f m arket. Also, unlike i n p revious IDeational
theories, Christaller's central places are centers serving, e
0 rather than being served by, their rural hinterland a nd
s urrounding lower order central places. I n considering
central places along with their market areas Christaller
developed a geometric model. Instead o f t he circles o f
"IhUnen o r t he triangles o r Weber, Christaller's geometry
was one o f polygons. Specifically, be modeled an orderly
and exhaustive hierarchy o f central places with their
complementary regions organized in hexagonal form.
'The e nthusiasm with which economic geographers o f the
19505 and 1960s embraced the clear, repetitive, hier
archical order, represented by the bexagons o f central
Figure 2.9) was, arguably, the classic expression
o f the aesthetics o f t he o rdering impulse o f e conomic
geography (as w e examine further i n C hapter 3). I n 1 962
economic geographer William Bunge wrote that he found
a 'growing beauty' in central place theory (1962: 129).
The simplest variant o f central place theory was based
o n a ' marketing principle' and is sometimes referred to as
the K- 3 model (Box 2.2). K rders to tbe number o f central
o f a certain order that are served by a central place
a t t he n ext higher order. I n t his highly structured
hierarchical urban system there is o ne central place arop
the hierarcby, with three central places o f t he next order,
followed by nine, 27, 81 a nd so on, down through the G-p/ace
B-p/ace <:> K-p/ace 0 A-place ..... /' /' ..... M-p/ace Boundary of the G-region Boundary of the B-region Boundary o f the K-region Boundary o f the A-region Boundary of the M-...
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