Article from ROAPE Volume 8 Number 21
Labour Power & Legal Transformation in Senegal

Labour Power and Legal Transformation in Senegal
Vol.8 No.21 (Summer 1981), pp26-43
Historical materialist studies of law, especially in Africa, are relatively recent. One question they raise concerns the ways in which the subsumption of African peasants within capitalist relations of production has affected legal ideas in formerly precapitalist social formations. Using an example from Senegal, this article examines recent changes in the meaning and significance of a particular legal concept. It shows how the change in the social form of labour power during the colonial period resulted in the transformation of a precapitalist conception of ‘childwealth’ into a material and symbolic equivalent of urban labour power as a commodity. In conclusion, the article outlines four general theses about the transformation of legal forms in rural Africa during the 20th Century.