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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Social Basis of Constitutionalism in Africa
Author:Mamdani, Mahmood
Periodical:Journal of Modern African Studies
Geographic term:Africa
Subjects:group rights
human rights
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Politics and Government
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/161225
Abstract:The content of rights, as that of democracy, must necessarily vary, not only according to historical circumstances, but also from one social context to another. Whereas in Western Europe the rule of law was seen as a check on an arbitrary and capricious royal power, in the American tradition it emerged as a limitation on popular sovereignty. In order to show that the issue of human rights and constitutionalism in contemporary Africa has not yet been settled, this paper analyses how State power has been organized in relation to different social groups - the peasantry, migrant labour, the middle and working classes - and looks at the question of group rights, especially significant in the African context. This leads to a conception of rights that is organic to African realities and not lifted in every detail mechanically from the Western historical experience. The point is to identify the social forces (classes/groups) that can stand behind such an expanded definition of the agenda of human rights and the rule of law, as well as the extent to which their conflicting interests have shaped contradictory conceptions of constitutionalism. Notes, ref.