An urbane, if understandably uneasy, meditation on the state of contemporary England; it ranks with Anthony Sampson's recent and much-acclaimed mammoth study, and in many ways is a far more piercing performance, probably because it anatomizes the socio-political atmosphere with sharper standards, having a go at both left-wing ophistries and right-wing sterility, and showing an admirable, though occasionally self-congratulatory, anti-sentimentalism. Throughout there's a recurrent theme: he tendency of intellectuals, especially the ""reformers"", either to construct imaginary worlds far removed from concrete situations or to become bogged down in iases of one sort or another, thus forming frustrations and frictions leading to little agreement on proper assumptions or attitudes necessary for any fruitful deate. The author concentrates almost completely on three problems: the colonial rack-up and the resultant foreign policy confusion re NATO, the Common Market and the Suez adventure (which he terms a ""suicidal idiocy""); the establishment of the welfare State and its numerous discontents; and finally the culture conflict both n the arts and education, with some envisioning a proletkult humanism for the masses and others decrying it as a ""more means less"" folly. Interwoven are generally right-on-the-button observation of people (Eliot, Leavis, Orwell, Snow, Raymond Williams, Crossman) and parties (Conservative, Labor, Liberal, Fabian). The author's own persuasion parallels mostly that of the little magazine Encounter. An all-around good show.