Staughton Lynd, something of a folk hero to the radical young and one of the best theorists of the New Left, traces here the political and philosophical origins of American democracy. His main intention, of course, is to show that the ideals of participatory democracy have not only gone unrealized in this country, but have also been systematically repressed or misunderstood. The sin of our Founding Fathers, as Professor Lynd sees it, is to have secured the emancipation of the common man only vis a vis the dubious achievement of representative government without a firm commitment to overthrow economic injustice. He notes that the Declaration of Independence and The Wealth of Nations were both published in the same year, and the villain throughout his pages is laissez-faire capitalism. Lynd's real dream is the creation of ""a voluntary federation of local communal institutions, perpetually re-created from below by what Paul Goodman calls 'a continuous series of existential constitutional acts.'"" The book is a striking, thorough-going historical analysis of a number of visionary voices from the 18th and 19th centuries, especially so in the provocative equation Lynd draws between Marx and Thoreau. A variety of telling notes are struck, many more left unresolved. But Lynd's study, high-minded and partisan in its way, is exhilarating scholarship bound to make news.