Values and representations in land registers and their legal, technical, social effects on land rights as an administrative artefact

Felicitas Sommer, Walter Timo de Vries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Improvements in land administration tend to focus on initiating or completing titling efforts. Yet, finding and monitoring inequality and intransparency of land ownership and of land tenure is equally problematic. The central question is how land registration epitomizes and monitors the distribution of land rights, and if the administrative choices reinforce or hinder the insights into these aspects. The article reasons from a theoretical basis that land rights are socio-technical products of administrative procedures with inscribed concepts and visions of (desirable) farm structures. The analysis relies on an analysis of five specific cases of techno-administrative structures: land registration in combination with cadastres and trade registers; the administrative system of compensation after German unification; the management system controlling land transfers; the system of collecting agrarian statistics; the system of land market statistics. All represent sociotechnical constructs related to current authentic and public information repositories related to land, land rights and statistical data about land. All systems exhibit a very narrow thematic focus and extreme rigidity of system design and design choices. The construction and use of the systems depend on two historically persistent assumptions and narratives: land prices will always increase, and land is held by individual small farm holders. Both these visions and the systematic land information infrastructures conceal certain objects and dynamics, such as existing complex land ownership constellations and land use practices. Secondly, the data collection choices do not align with what land related policies require. Agricultural statistics are example following individual land ownership structures and ignoring private agglomerate ownership structures and dependencies. Consequently, the design of techno-administrative structures related to land lead to insufficient insights of land distribution and equality of land rights. The conclusion is therefore that the land related knowledge and information infrastructures need to be much more aligned with policy interventions and problem-oriented policy making. Currently they act as information silos and rely on outdated visions and assumptions. This requires however new models of land information organisation and governance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106946
JournalLand Use Policy
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Agricultural law & policy
  • Family farm
  • Land administration
  • Land registration
  • Social values


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