Dale writes that she started reading the book,
a study of street-level urban governance in Toronto, because it promised a law and society alternative to [Jane] Jacobs’ work [Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)]. But while I came, so to speak, for the law and society recasting of Jacobs, I stayed for the reminders her work offers legal historians.
Of course, there have been important legal histories of cities before; one thinks of Dirk Hartog’s Public Property and Private Power (1989). Valverde’s book, although not directly a history (though history plays a role in her account), is clearly in that vein. But her book is more than a reminder of important law and society contributions to the legal history of urban life. It is a constitutional story of how people negotiate multi-layered sovereignty (from the local to international) that shows us how historical actors are shaped by, and shape, a mix of legal regimes. Her descriptions of the grey and informal spaces where laws, regulations, government agents, and members of the public interact, demonstrate how blurry the lines between formal law and popular constitutionalism or extralegal justice can often be.