The First American Frontier: Transition to Capitalism in Southern Appalachia, 1700-1860

By Wilma A. Dunaway | Go to book overview

7
THE SPATIAL ORGANIZATION OF EXTERNAL TRADE

Specialization Zones in the World Economy

During the nineteenth century, the world's geographical regions were hierarchically integrated into a framework of production processes structured around three interdependent specializations: zones to produce export commodities; support zones to supply food or raw materials to the export areas and their urbanizing centers; and support zones from which laborers emigrated to the export centers. None of these zones was totally independent from the other areas, for self-sufficiency was to be found only at the level of the entire capitalist world system.1

As the transition to capitalism unfolded in India, West Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia, there was "considerable geographic concentration of particular crops in certain tracts." In this way, those areas cultivating staple exports for external markets could acquire cheap survival provisions and labor from contiguous regions. Thus, the emergence of cash-crop zones stimulated the expansion of market-oriented food production in adjacent zones. In South America, the Caribbean, and the West Indies, there developed a "continuous interplay of plantations and small-scale yeoman agriculture." In order to maximize access to international markets, the Europeans concentrated their plantation systems along the coasts. To supply food to the coastal plantations, a second type of "production regime" was adapted to the inland, more mountainous terrain. In those zones, smaller-scale farms and manufacturing enterprises generated grains, livestock, and extractive commodities to provender the coastal export centers. There were some areas without easy market access where high capital or labor investments were risky. Because of the high demand in the global metropoles, such "unprofitable" vast inland tracts were transformed into the "livestock frontiers" of the nineteenthcentury world economy. In addition, extractive industry emerged in the in-

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