Frithjof Kuhnen

Unpublished Manuscript 1995



Agrarian Structure

The term Agrarian Structure denotes all of the existing and lasting production and living conditions found in a rural region. It comprises social, technological, and economic elements and determines the achievable productivity, income and its distribution, and the rural population's social situation.

The agrarian structure includes the system of land tenure (social agrarian structure) and the system of land management (technical and economic agrarian structure)


1. Systems of Land Tenure
(Social Agrarian Structure)

The system of land tenure governs the traditional or legal rights individuals or groups have to land and the resulting social relationships among the rural population. Its components are the system of land ownership and system of labour organization.

In accordance with the existing conditions, many different land tenure systems have developed throughout the world, whereby both natural conditions (climate, soil conditions, topography) as well as social factors (sociocultural values, political ideology, level of technological development, population trend, changes in the cost-price relationships, etc-.) played a role.

Systems of land tenure are not immutable. On the contrary, they are subjected to a continual process of change. Changes in the natural growing conditions and economic factors, technological innovations, changes in the size of the population, and influences emanating from the political power structures bring about changes in the land tenure system. As in recent times these factors have been changing more and more rapidly, the system of land tenure frequently lags behind the new situation and does not adjust to it on time. Land tenure systems are institutionally established and are, therefore, difficult to alter. Political power structures; cooperative ties; and class, cultural, and ethnic interests and motives all work towards maintaining the established forms.

As a result of the continual changes in the factors that govern and form the land tenure system, an ideal land tenure system cannot exist. The momentary, specific land tenure system is the institutional framework within which the agrarian production and way of life are carried out under the existing circumstances and conditions. It is interrelated with the natural, economic, social, and political conditions. As these change, the land tenure system has to continually adapt itself to the changing situation.