The farmer johann h einrich v on t hlinen was

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Unformatted text preview: farmer - Johann H einrich v on T hlinen - was considering perhaps t hat m ost basic 16 TRADITIONAL ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHIES o f questions asked by economic geographers: w hy does this particular activity take place i n t his particular location? J OHANN H EINRICH V ON T HUNEN J ohann H einrich von Thiinen ( 1783-1850) is l auded as t he founder o f location analysis. H e is also variously celebrated as a p ioneering econometrician, an i mportant c ontributor t o political e conomy a nd a n agricultural economist. T hiinen d eveloped two m ain s trands o f reasoning. O ne was concerned with improving agriculture through a rational understanding o f the economics intensity and variety. The second concerned the calculation o f wages. Economists remember Thiinen for his work aimed at understanding the so-called 'natural wage' i n w hich he attempted to link labor productivity and pay Dempsey 1960). I ndeed, o n his agricultural estate i n M ecklenburg, Thiinen experimented w ith s ome modest profit sharing schemes involving the workers he employed. Thiinen himself was most passionate about his work o n wages, even having the formula he developed for the natural wage carved into his gravestone! However, for economic geographers it is T hiinen's work o n the rational use o f agricultural land that holds most interest. I t, like the work o n wages, was theoretically elaborated using the 'fiction' o f the isolated state and was empirically tested and refined using detailed data o n prices, costs a nd yields between 1810 a nd 1815 t hat Thiinen h ad c ompiled for his o wn estate. lhe Isolated State is t he title o f T hiinen' s famous work o f 1826. T he isolated state was arguably the first explicit model in economic geography. Model-building, as we shall see in s ubsequent c hapters, has been a m ethod f or e conomic g eographers. Thiinen's m odel is a m eaning an abstraction from reality, although - like all models - it bears the traces o f the model-builder's context: the flat farmland o f n orthern G ermany o n the fringes o f t he Baltic Sea. I t is also an idealization; representing an 'ideal' landscape, o ne o rdered o n t he p rinciples o f rationality a nd equality. As in his work o n wages, Thiinen imagined a society composed o f undifferentiated, rational individuals with perfect knowledge: 'every citizen knows his o wn b est interest a nd acts accordingly' TRADITIONAL LOCATION THEORY 1966: 194). T hiinen opens his b ook w ith the following instructions t o the reader: Imagine a very town, at the center o f a fertile plain which is crossed by no navigable river o r canal. Throughout the plain the soil is capable o f cultivation and o f the same fertility. Far from the town, the _ turns into an uncultivated wilderness which cuts o ff all communication between this State and the outside world. There are n o o ther towns o n t he plain. The central town must therefore supply the rural areas w ith all manufactured products, a nd i n return it will obtain all its provisions from the surrounding countryside. The mines t hat p rovide the State with salt a nd metals are near the central town which, as i t is the only one, we shall in future call simply ' the T own.' 7) imaginary state, situated o n a featureless or isotropic plain a nd centered o n a single town s urrounded b y its h interland w hich, i n t urn, was surrounded by 'wilderness.' H e w ent o n to ask: ' What p attern o f cultivation will take shape in these conditions? a nd h ow will the farming system o f different districts be affected by their distance from the Town?' (1966: I n providing answers to his questions, Thiinen assumed steady for crops a nd i nputs (such as m anure a nd and o nly o ne m ode o f t ransport the horse a nd c art assuming, i n t urn, t hat t ransport costs w ould be p roportional t o distance. T hiinen was interested i n calculating the ' rent' for land. Land rent was a function o f the value o f its crop or, in o ther words, the sale o f the product minus the costs o f production a nd transport t o market. For land located at various distances from the town Thiinen deduced what types o f agricultural land use would generate returns that would maximize the land rent a nd t hus the rational allocation o f l and uses around the town. For each crop, there was in effect a rent t hat c ould be ' bid,' a p oint e laborated by s ubsequent l ocation theorists such as W illiam Alonso (Figure 2.1). Thiinen was n ot o nly interested in the choice to be grown bur also in the farming system t hat w ould be adopted - or w hether i t w ould be rational to adopt a crop rotation system a nd a pply lare;e a mounts o f m anure t o Crop 1 (e.g. strawberries) ~ Crop 2 (e.g. wheat) o d istance from town/market Crop 1 Production Zone Crop 2 Production Zone Figure 2 .1 Bid rent functions for two crops Source: based on Alonso 1964: 40. enrich the soil o r not. Thiinen recognized that o n land near the market o r u rban center intensive agriculture would be the economically rational use. Land further away, and...
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This document was uploaded on 01/24/2014.

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