PPE Research Fellow Focus: David Bieri

This past academic year, David Bieri (Associate Professor in Urban Affairs and Planning) served as PPE Research Fellow. During his fellowship time, Dr. Bieri worked on a multi-year project to create a comprehensive online archive of the collected papers of the German economist and spatial theorist Karl Wilhelm August Lösch (1906-1945).

Karl Wilhelm August Lösch

Dr. Bieri’s fellowship funds have helped to defray the cost associated with collecting primary archival material in Heidenheim (Germany), and with the acquisition of additional archival material from the German National Archives in Frankfurt, the university archives at Basel, Freiburg, and Tübingen, as well as from the archives of the city of Lörrach.

In June 2021, Dr. Bieri was able to travel to the archives of the city of Heidenheim where Lösch’s collected papers and correspondence are kept, still entirely in unprocessed and uncatalogued form. The main purpose of the visit was to collect primary source material for a book project of a commented collection of Lösch’s correspondence from 1927-1945 (under contract with Metropolis Verlag’s Contributions to the History of German-speaking Economics series).

Of particular interest to the transatlantic history of émigré economists, Lösch’s correspondence bears witness to intellectual migration of German-speaking economists who resettled in the U.S. after 1933, many of whom he was in close contact with during his two Rockefeller Research Fellowships in 1934-35 and in 1937-38.

Four Letters: Lösch-Schumpeter. Spiethoff-Lösch. Eucken-Lösch. Schumpeter-Lösch.

Dr. Bieri remarks: “During my weeklong visit, I was also able to develop a follow-up project with the archival staff of the Stadtarchiv Heidenheim to systematically document and catalogue the Lösch archival material, which currently encompasses 28 boxes, covering some 15 linear feet. Since my return from Germany, I have been processing and cataloguing the archival material, focusing on the transcription of newly identified letters and other correspondence, many of which were written in old German handwriting.”

A student of the great German-speaking economists Walter Eucken (1891-1950), Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950), and Arthur Spiethoff (1873-1957), Lösch’s work primarily straddles fields in economics (business cycle theory, international trade theory, geographical economics), but his work also crosses into other disciplines like political science and even philosophy (he was a student of both Heidegger’s and Husserl’s). As such, Lösch’s intellectual legacy is of immediate interest to members of the PPE community.

Ski Weekend at Heidegger’s Chalet on Todtnauberg (Black Forrest)

Lösch is best known for his grand œuvre, Die Räumliche Ordnung der Wirtschaft (1940/44; transl., Economics of Location, 1954), which by many accounts marks the beginning of modern spatial economics, representing the very pinnacle of a century of theorizing about the economic problems of space. However, despite his fame for integrating location theory within modern theories of international trade and imperfect competition, Lösch’s scientific work must be considered incomplete due to his premature death at only age thirty-nine, only three weeks after Germany’s unconditional surrender in May of 1945.

Beyond his contributions as an academic, Lösch’s significance as a historical figure stems from his selfless and steadfast commitment to the principles of liberalism and democracy during one of Europe’s darkest periods in history. Indeed, his deep commitment to humanism and freedom forbade him to emigrate, despite several attractive offers to pursue an academic career in the U.S. after 1933. Instead, Lösch intrepidly engaged in active resistance against the Nazi regime, sacrificing both his career, personal safety, and ultimately his health. Not only was an exceptionally prolific and very promising life tragically cut short, but the post-war devastation and chaos also meant that only a small fraction of Lösch’s works has been made accessible to researchers to date.

Dr. Bieri notes: “With the generous help of my PPE Research Fellowship, the project of making accessible the full scope of the genius of this ‘famous, but ignored economist’ to researchers around the globe via my online archive has made an important leap forward.”

To learn more about Dr. Bieri’s work, please visit his professional website. To learn more about the Kellogg Center’s research fellowships, please visit this link.

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