"The Irish state has remained firmly democratic in its orientation and succeeded in imparting democratic convictions to the nation." The first decade of the Free State is analyzed in a sociological and theoretical framework, influenced beneficially by Clifford Geertz. A book that mixes theory-the centrality of diverse cultural values in fashioning politics and the importance of a public realm-with history; the former imposes a bit on the latter. A less demanding theoretical approach would have made an important and valuable study more accessible. Prager does handle Irish history and its early crises deftly, and his analysis is important and persuasive, if doggedly pursued.