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in law, any ground, soil, or earth regarded as the subject of ownership, including trees, water, buildings added by humans, the air above, and the earth below. Private ownership of land does not exist in groups that live by hunting, fishing, or herding; e.g., in pre-Columbian times in America, the tribe owned the land, and each individual had equal access to it and equal rights to its use. In simple agricultural groups, as in early Europe, the villagevillage,
small rural population unit, held together by common economic and political ties. Based on agricultural production, a village is smaller than a town and has been the normal unit of community living in most areas of the world throughout history.
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 community made an annual allotment of land to individuals for cultivation. Similar allotments were made under the manorial systemmanorial system
or seignorial system
, economic and social system of medieval Europe under which peasants' land tenure and production were regulated, and local justice and taxation were administered.
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. A communal form of rural landholding persisted in Russia into the 20th cent. and still exists in India. The modern sovereign state asserts dominion over all property within its territorial limits, including the land, and by the right of eminent domain (see public ownershippublic ownership,
government ownership of lands, streets, public buildings, utilities, and other business enterprises. The theory that all land and its resources belong ultimately to the people and therefore to the government is very ancient.
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) can seize privately owned land for public use, with the proviso that the owner be justly compensated. In the Soviet Union ownership of all land was vested in the nation outright, individuals and organizations being granted provisional rights to its use. Widely distributed private ownership of farmland has been regarded in Western countries as socially—if not always economically—advantageous. The concentration of landholding in a few hands has frequently led to political unrest and social upheaval, as in Latin America, Spain, Italy, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. In economics the term land is used to designate one of the main factors of production; it is another name for nature or natural resources. But few natural resources are free; farmland, for instance, is almost valueless without cultivation. In order to extract crops, minerals, and energy from the land, labor and capital must be applied. In economic theories of value, the share assigned to land as a factor in production is called rentrent,
in law, periodic payment by a tenant for the use of another's property. In economics, its meaning is more complex, but since the word rent means any income or yield from an object capable of producing wealth, its limitation to a more special sense is somewhat
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See also public landpublic land,
in U.S. history, land owned by the federal government but not reserved for any special purpose, e.g., for a park or a military reservation. Public land is also called land in the public domain.
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; tenuretenure,
in law, manner in which property in land is held. The nature of tenure has long been of great importance, both in law and in the broader economic and political context.
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; propertyproperty,
rights to the enjoyment of things of economic value, whether the enjoyment is exclusive or shared, present or prospective. The rightful possession of such rights is called ownership.
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See A. W. Griswold, Farming and Democracy (1948); G. Hallett, The Economics of Agricultural Land Tenure (1960); R. E. Megarry and H. W. R. Wade, The Law of Real Property (3d ed. 1966); A. W. Simpson, A History of the Land Law (2d ed. 1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


  1. territory valued for its natural resources or its potential for human use for cultivation, living space or natural beauty
  2. the territory with which a particular people identify: ‘this land is our land’.
In ECONOMICS, land is generally viewed as a FACTOR OF PRODUCTION. Sociologists and anthropologists have been mainly interested in the social relations involved in LAND TENURE and land use. In STATELESS SOCIETIES and AGRARIAN SOCIETIES there are various forms of land ownership with communal or corporate group ownership in the former and various forms of state and private ownership in the latter. However, often in these societies issues of land ownership may be secondary, or even the concept itself absent. Of more importance may be the issue of who has rights of use of the land (usufruct) and rights to the products of the land.

Different forms of land tenure and land use are often considered important by social scientists in distinguishing between different forms of society: for example, the holding of land on condition of providing service to a superior is characteristic of FEUDALISM, as opposed to the notion of private ownership characteristic of CAPITALISM. In capitalist societies, however, land is often not just another factor of production equivalent to others. Thus zoning may prevent certain uses of land in certain regions, as with the designation of National Parks in the UK, and most societies have planning regulations governing the use of land. More recently, the rise of environmental pressure groups has led to calls for limitations on land use, e.g. to control deforestation or the use of nitrate fertilizers.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



considered as a means of production, a necessary material prerequisite for the process of labor; one of its most important material factors.

Land comes from nature itself and is the primary means of production in many sectors of the national economy, above all in agriculture and forestry. It has a number of features that influence the nature of the production process in these sectors. Land is a means of production that cannot be reproduced, which fundamentally limits land resources in general (agricultural land in particular) and makes the properties of the land dependent on a group of climatic and other natural factors. Although the total area of land is limited absolutely, the dimensions of agricultural land are limited relatively. With the increasing availability of technical equipment, the expansion of land improvement, the electrification of agriculture, and the general development of productive forces, it becomes possible to turn new lands into agricultural lands. Such possibilities must not, however, be exaggerated, particularly because the development of industry brings the reverse process into play, namely the removal of some land from agricultural use. The growing need for agricultural products can be satisfied above all through the more intensive and efficient use of land already under cultivation. From this it follows that intensification of agricultural production is the primary way of developing it.

Fertility is the basic property of land as a means of production and shapes its use value. From the economic point of view fertility is the ability of land to go on producing the plant products necessary to man and to permit the development of animal husbandry. Fertility depends on the quantity of nutrients in the land, the structure of the soil, and other biological and climatic factors that initially form in the course of natural processes. After land is brought into economic circulation, fertility may be reproduced and improved artificially through technical progress: fertilizers improved, technical equipment, and cultivation techniques. The most favorable conditions for increasing the fertility of the land are created where there is a rational combination of natural and artificial production capabilities. The unity of these factors shapes the real, economic fertility of the land. It is precisely growth in economic fertility that is the most important aspect of raising the use efficiency of land resources. The index of the economic fertility of land is the yield of agricultural crops. Growth in the yield of crops and in the productivity of animal husbandry is direct evidence of improvement in the quality of the land and in its use value. This growth completely refutes the Malthusian and neo-Malthusian theories and the so-called law of diminishing fertility. The law of diminishing fertility contradicts one of the most important features of the land as a means of production, which is that the use value of land in economic circulation (where it is used rationally), rather than decreasing, actually increases. To improve the quality of the land and increase its fertility, the USSR has an extensive program of measures to expand the production and use of mineral fertilizers, introduce land improvement measures, and perfect the system of farming with due regard for the characteristics of different zones of the country.

A specific feature of land, which is related to its primary production property of fertility, is that it is both an object and a means of labor at the same time. When the production process is directed toward cultivating the soil and involves maintaining or increasing its fertility, the land appears as an object of labor. Therefore lands drawn into economic circulation and placed under cultivation cannot be viewed simply as a gift of nature. In this case the productive properties of the land are also a result of labor activity, and the efficiency of the use of the productive properties is assessed with due regard for expenses incurred. Land appears as an object of labor, however, only in the first stages of the process of agricultural production. As a condition for and the basis of the entire technology of agricultural production, land is a means of labor. But the fertility of the land, its ability to provide nutrients to agricultural crops, makes it a unique instrument of production. Just as fertility is the main property of land as a means of agricultural production, land itself acts mainly as an instrument of production. In this case the characteristic feature of land is that man uses biological, chemical, and other processes occurring in the soil itself as instruments of production; man creates the most favorable conditions for these processes and attempts to control and vary their course in the necessary direction. In this sense the problem of using the land as an instrument of production is more complex than the use of machinery or equipment. The level of potential fertility and opportunities for its use are determined by the level of development of agricultural means of production, the technical equipment available to agriculture, and the level of farming sophistication that is appropriate. Therefore the nature of land as an instrument of production is historically just as changeable as all other means of production. There is no limit to increasing the fertility of the soil as technical progress develops. Farming experience in the economically developed countries shows that soil fertility rises steadily.

It is important to take account of the changes occurring in land fertility specifically in connection with the possibility of producing different crops on one and the same plot, that is, with the universality of land as an instrument of production. Alternating crops (crop rotation) on cultivated land makes it possible to maintain the level of fertility achieved. Thus crop rotation is a vital element in reproducing the properties of land as an instrument of production. At the same time each plot of land is differently suited for the production of particular types of output. Therefore, the most efficient use of land fertility is directly dependent on correctly determining the optimal sector of a farm and on the level of farming specialization. The increasingly broad use of mineral fertilizers and other factors that influence fertility expands possibilities for specializing agricultural production. Under present conditions, with agriculture moving to the stage of machine production and greater specialization, the development of agricultural production is a most important task. Economic evaluation of the land and the development of a state land cadaster that would take account of the possible results from various types of land should promote correct shaping of the production schedules of agricultural enterprises.

Another specific feature of land as the primary means of production in farming is the time gap between production and the working period; this increases unevenness in the use of labor resources and the means of production in different periods of the year. As the intensity of agricultural production grows, the time gap between production and the working period is reduced, because of the creation of more new jobs in the top dressing of plants, control of weeds and pests, and other contributions of production technology. At the same time the intensity of agricultural labor evens out somewhat in the course of the entire production season. The most important way to resolve the problem of evening out the employment of agricultural workers is the comprehensive mechanization of production.

The nature of ownership of the land as the means of production also determines the nature of production (agrarian) relationships. Differences in fertility and in the location of plots of land create the basis for differential rent, the economic manifestation of the ownership of land. Different forms of land ownership and agrarian relations create different conditions for using and improving the land. Socialism, which in the final account eliminates private ownership of land and transforms private farms into large-scale socialist state and cooperative enterprises, completely removes the socioeconomic barriers to agricultural development. A large part is played here by rent incomes that arise because of the natural (soil or geographic) features of different plots of land and are used productively in accordance with the needs of all agriculture. Simultaneously socialism creates objective prerequisites for rational specialization of agricultural enterprises with due regard for the specific features of the land resources. By the same token the conditions arise for the efficient use of one of the most important types of social wealth—land.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3. K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 25, part 2, pp. 201–03, 226–30.
Lenin, V. I. “Agrarnyi vopros i ‘kritiki Marksa.’” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 5, pp. 100–15.
Osnovy zemel’nogo zakonodatel’stva Soiuza SSR i soiuznykh respublik. Moscow, 1969.




(1) In Czechoslovakia (until 1949) and in the German Democratic Republic (until 1952), large administrative and territorial units (now historical regions).

(2) In Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany, historically formed administrative and territorial units that form a federated state. Each Land has its own constitution, elected legislative bodies (Landtäge), governments, and courts, all enjoying a certain autonomy in questions of internal organization and local government. However, the federal government has broad power in state administration and legislation.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(aerospace engineering)
Of an aircraft, to alight on land or a ship deck.
(design engineering)
The top surface of the tooth of a cutting tool, behind the cutting edge.
One of the regions between pits on a track on an optical disk.
In plastics molding equipment, the horizontal bearing surface of a semipositive or flash mold to allow excess material to escape; or the bearing surface along the top of the screw flight in a screw extruder; or the surface of an extrusion die that is parallel to the direction of melt flow.
The surface between successive grooves of a diffraction grating or phonograph record.
The portion of the earth's surface that stands above sea level.
In the preparation of a pipe length for welding, the edge of the tube wall that remains perpendicular to the bore after the pipe end has been beveled.
One of the raised ridges in the bore of a rifled gun barrel.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. Part of the surface of the earth not permanently covered by water.
2. Any immoveable improvements or fixtures attached thereto.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


of the Giants a Gulliver’s Travels in outer space. [TV: Terrace, II, 10–11]
See: Fantasy
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the solid part of the surface of the earth as distinct from seas, lakes, etc.
2. ground, esp with reference to its use, quality, etc.
3. Law
a. any tract of ground capable of being owned as property, together with any buildings on it, extending above and below the surface
b. any hereditament, tenement, or other interest; realty
a. a country, region, or area
b. the people of a country, etc.
5. Economics the factor of production consisting of all natural resources


Edwin Herbert. 1909--91, US inventor of the Polaroid Land camera
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


A non-indented area on an optical medium such as a CD-ROM or DVD disc. Contrast with pit.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
Traditionally the landless pastoralists have utilized the upland pastures of Hazara division in summer and lowland pastures in winter.
The landless rural poor unlike their counterpart in urban areas are normally excluded from social sector safety nets (like food coupons and financial assistance from Baitulmal and Benazir income support program etc.) provided by the government.
While the landless poor are the backbone of the agricultural production system in our part of the world, most official development schemes continue to ignore their plight.
Shehzad Baig said small and landless farmers were facing exploitation because of unjust distribution of land, corporate agriculture.
Further, Landless is a non-executive director and chair of the Audit Committees of Innospec Inc and Renold plc and a non-executive director of European Metal Recycling Ltd.
Also, life insurance support to 32,80,000 cultivators and 24,20,000 landless agricultural labourers with a premium of Rs 171 per beneficiary of age group 18-50 years and an additional premium amount of Rs 12 for the age group of 50-70 years, will be provided.
Days after the farmers' protests in the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border area, the landless poor started their journey on foot around 10am to reach the national capital.
To contribute to the growing scholarship on Brazilian social movements, revolutionary politics, and contentious politics in general, Pahnke contends that we need to consider the Landless Workers Movement's contradictory relationship with state authority as resulting from a combination of legal and extralegal tactics.
They said that it was the struggle of Comrade Haider Bux Jatoi that peasants and landless haris have forged unity and forced the government to prepare new laws for protection of peasants' rights.
"We mobilized the local bank to disburse loans worth Rs 1 crore to 3,000 landless and marginal farmers to purchase dairy cows," explained the Director proudly.
April 26, 2015(BOR) -- In a bid to reduce slum estates and create modern settlements Jonglei state's Bor county is preparing to allocate over 2,000 new plots to landless residents living in the capital.
"50.8 % of rural households are landless while the poverty amongst rural landless people is high.