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Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities examines the intersection of communities, cultures, and laws in public life, asking important questions about how nonruling communities confront the law in their efforts to achieve political goals.
The book carefully studies the legal culture of nonruling communities, asking whether individual rights can adequately protect these communities within a democratic society. Taking his evidence from scrupulous primary research into unpublished sources, Gad Barzilai examines the history of violent and nonviolent interactions between the Israeli state and three nonruling communities –Palestinians, feminists, and ultra-Orthodox Jews –ultimately concluding that the liberal principle of individual rights is insufficient to protect minorities in their interactions with the state. Instead, Barzilai, Professor of Political Science at Tel Aviv University and a widely respected authority on conflict and order in the Middle East, offers up a communitarian solution that draws heavily on theories from the fields of politics and law and society.
Barzilai's thoughtful arguments in Communities and Law are a significant contribution to key theoretical discussions about the relationship between communitarianism and national minorities, feminism, and religious fundamentalism. Barzilai's unique approach applies contextual legal and political reasoning based on many years of critical study of law, society, and the state. The result is an important new examination of the continuum from litigation to violence, set in the broader context of contests over the politics of identity.
"Barzilai makes a major contribution to thinking about state-society relations, pointing researchers to the plurality of communities harboring different sorts of legal identities, consciousness, and practices. The mix of state domination through centralized law and the legal cultures of particular communities provides a window into the construction of modern-day society and politics. Necessary reading for those working on comparative politics, law and society, and Israel studies."
—Joel Migdal, University of Washington
"In recent years students of legal consciousness have decoupled law from the state, but in doing so have run the risk of leaving us with an unwieldy and amorphous idea. Barzilai has harnessed their insights and put them to good use illuminating the multifaceted nature of law, legal mobilization, and state-society relationships in a vibrant multicultural society. It is a remarkable achievement."
—Malcolm Feeley, University of California, Berkeley
"A rich, subtle, and wide-ranging analysis of the complex interaction between law and culture in Israeli society. Barzilai focuses on three major components of the Israeli puzzle: Palestinians, women, and ultra-Orthodox Jews and shows how their communities form crucial pillars in the conjunction of law and politics. An impressive work whose theoretical implications go far beyond the study of Israeli society."
—Pnina Lahav, Boston University School of Law