Unplanning has an excellent post that re-introduces Walther Christaller’s venerable Central Place Theory and discusses it continuing role in a low-energy world. The theory, and Unplanner’s post, call into question the validity of a rhizome-lattice structure (as I suggested in “Envisioning a Hamlet Economy.” See Unplanner’s comments HERE.) because such a lattice structure rejects “super-nodes,” and attempts to keep the economic topology essentially “flat.” This post hopes to cover 1) a discussion of the key role of subsidy in the Central Place model, 2) the unique adaptation of a rhizome-lattice by consciously holding the threshold of self-sufficiency at a low level, 3) the resulting ability of a rhizome-lattice to persist despite the necessary artificiality of its construction upon the detritus of a hierarchal system molded by subsidized central-place infrastructure, and 4) my own vision of the new role of a Dynamic Central Place Interaction that allows a rhizome-lattice to leverage the potential of Central Place without facilitating the accretion of hierarchy.
1. Hierarchal Subsidy is the key to Central Place Structure
As I noted in my paper, “Subsidized Centralization: An Economic Analysis of the Roman Road Network” (Presented at the Mediterranean Studies Association Annual Meeting. Currently under peer-review for publication by the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences. Previously “All Roads Lead to
Absent subsidy to maintain hierarchy, a devolved pattern (such as the rhizome-lattice model) is sustainable. Hierarchy, however, once initiated, exerts a powerful pull: it offers redistributive security to localized economic nodes that have failed to maintain economic self-sufficiency. Additionally, it provides one method for providing the complex organization needed to respond to certain systemic shocks such as invasion, drought, disease, and the ability to produce and trade in goods and services that require complexity. Rhizome, however, offers an alternative mode of organization that can address both of these problems.
2. Rhizome: Conscious Threshold of Self-Sufficiency
Standard, localized economic nodes remain dependent on participation in an exchange network to meet their minimum needs. This dependency provides the initial subsidy to hierarchy that gets its evolution ‘over the hump’ presented by the tendency towards devolution and import-replacement, and facilitates its perpetual intensification—as we see repeated over and over in the annals of history. Rhizome addresses this at its source: a rhizome node must, by definition, maintain a resilient minimal self-sufficiency. It is then free to engage in specialized production with surpluses, but by maintaining minimal self-sufficiency, it never becomes dependent on interaction with other nodes, and therefore never falls victim to hierarchy. It always holds a position of power in outside interaction: it does not need to participate. It consciously holds the threshold of self-sufficiency at its own level.
3. Rhizome Compatibility with
Now consider the conscious development of rhizome within this
By working within the hierarchal system, but consciously developing a network that lies outside of that system, the rhizome structure in the above graphic is becoming increasingly resilient. This is, in many ways, similar to the conscious creation of alternative social networks via the internet that, while compatible with the traditional social structure, are outside of it and in many ways are replacing it.
The second advantage afforded by