The Four Classical Traditions in Location Theory

Land Use
von Thünen / Alonso
Industrial Location
Production Orientation
Weber/ Smith/ Isard/ Moses
Central Places
Market Areas
Christaller / Lösch
Spatial Competition
Objectives Thunen:
  • Optimal agricultural land uses based on transport costs to market


  • Optimal distances of residential and commercial land uses from CBD
  • Weber: Transport-cost minimizing location
    Smith: Profit maximization
    Moses: Optimal combination of inputs & optimal level of production at optimal location (allowing for scale (dis-)economies and substitutability at any one level of production)
    Optimal market areas Optimal Response in the Face of Locational Competition
    Assumptions Thunen:
  • Central market with given prices
  • Given production methods + costs for any crop independent of location (uniform technologies + no scale economies)
  • Linear transport cost/distance functions


  • Mono-centric city
  • Weber:
  • Given linear production function (no substitution & no economies of scale)
  • prices at markets are given
  • Christaller:
  • Uniform spatial distribution of households
  • Households have homogeneous demand functions
  • Transport costs can be allocated to invidual goods ( multi-function trips)
  • Uniform spatial distribution of (price- & distance-inelastic) demand; One competitor (=spatial duopoly); Production costs are independent of location
    • Supply
    • Demand
    • Dispersed
    • Localized
      • Localized
      • Localized
      • Localized
      • Dispersed
      • Localized
      • Dispersed (in one-dimensional space [=line])
      Major Analytical Tools Rent functions
      Margin of cultivation
      Alonso: Bid rent(price) function
    • Material Index (MI)
    • "isotims" (Spatial isocost lines)
    • Isodapane surfaces
    • Critical isodapane
    • Space cost curves,
    • Space revenue curves,
    • "Spatial margins of profitability"
    • Principle of substitution
    • Isoquants & spatial isocost/outlay lines.
    • Hierarchical principles
    • Threshold range (=spatial break-even point)
    • Range of a good
    • Spatial demand curve ("cone")
    • Can be interpreted as 2-person zero-sum game; Payoff matrix; Edgeworth box with reaction curves
      Land Use
      von Thünen / Alonso
      Industrial Location
      Production Orientation
      Launhardt/ Weber/ Predoehl/ Isard/ Moses/ Smith.
      Central Places
      Market Areas
      Christaller / Lösch
      Spatial Competition
      von Thunen




      Graphic Representation(s)

      See also:

    • Transport Gradients
    • Supply and Demand Graphs
    • Also: here | here | here!

      Also: Click Here (Multiple Isotims)

      Also click: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.

      Also Click Here!

      All three models are based on classical or neo-classical, deductive micro-economic reasoning. They therefore have the following additional characteristics:
      1. Actual human behavior is not explicitly considered. Locational outcomes are the (automatic) result of given conditions. Any implied "actor" would have the attributes of the non-human "economic man" who is perfectly informed and objectively rational; see Fritz Machlup's argument about the [: "The fallacy of misplaced concreteness", p. 10 in: Machlup Theories of the Firm: Marginalist, Behavioral, Managerial, The American Economic Review, 1967]
      2. These theoretical models are normative in the sense that they stipulate spatial patterns to occur on the bases of a set of assumptions.
      3. They represent partial equilibrium models (partial in the sense that only few relationships between a small number of variables were considered)
      4. They are static (time is not explicit variable)
      In addition, the geographic nature of these models necessitates assumptions about the nature of transport costs and the geomorphology, soil qualities etc.; generally, all these conditions are uniform in space (although some of the related assumptions can be readily dropped and the associated variables incorporated into theoretical statements). Purpose of such assumptions is to reduce the concept of accessibility and the effect of separation in space to that of simple distance which can be easily incorporated into these models and to eliminate any complexity related to heterogeneous production and consumption conditions in space.
      It is easy to see why many geographers have difficulties accepting such assumptions given that the underlying variable conditions are the prime focus of physical geography.

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