Tsai . . . has selected eight transformative legal texts to show how legality and social process interact in dissident communities and diverse settings. The documents represent an astonishing array of ideologies from utopian socialism and internationalism to Confederate and black power movements. Using an analytical framework based on categories of sovereignty and self-rule, each chapter considers the historical significance and dynamic growth of its community, culminating in marginalization or integration of its philosophies into the broader legal and political culture of this nation. The organization is historical, beginning with 19th-century social campaigns to nascent Aryan nation communities. The author successfully demonstrates the difficulties of establishing and maintaining alternative legal cultures even with strong, visionary leadership. Including extensive notes, this book suits students of law and society, yet the smooth-flowing narrative should also appeal to general readers of alternative American history.
VERDICT: A deft, readable investigation of this country's complex legal traditions with lessons for contemporary fringe groups.—Antoinette Brinkman, formerly with Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville