Berkeley sociologist and former New Left honcho Gitlin here skillfully submerges autobiography into a sweeping history of that tumultuous decade--the Sixties. At the center of the storm to come was ""the movement,"" and the movement swelled in a little-known student group, SDS. Students for a Democratic Society was born in 1962 at Port Huron, Michigan, where the principles of ""participatory democracy"" were first articulated in an inspired manifesto (The Port Huron Statement). Although this new radicalism reached back to the ""subterranean ethos of the Fifties,"" these earnest young leftists had a sense of making history, of breaking with the reformist past of their liberal elders. The New Left took their somewhat inchoate vision to the people, forming strong links to the awe-inspiring civil rights movement in the South, and weaker bonds with the urban poor. External and internal forces hastened SDS's steady shift from protest to resistance to revolution. Without anointed leaders, factionalism reared its ugly head; militants seized control. What began as an indigenous American movement to empower ordinary people evolved into a single-issue (though successful) straggle against the Vietnam War, and then, into an orgy of violence, culminating in the self-destruction of Weathermen bombers in a Greenwich Village townhouse. Cultural radicalism--the hippie celebration of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll--proved more enduring than politics at the decade's end. But the finer legacies of the Sixties--feminism foremost among them--also figure into Gitlin's inspired narrative. For all of his self-indulgence (he quotes his old letters, his poems, his FBI file), Gitlin's ambitious synthesis of 60's culture and politics succeeds brilliantly--the most authoritative account to date.