Not banners but billboards--ads for Pan Am, Avis, appliances, banks--greeted Washington Post correspondent Doder when he returned to his native Yugoslavis in 1973. But the rampant, Western-style consumerism, the relatively light--by Soviet standards--governmental hand, are not the whole story: Doder's affectionate aunt (mindful of her daughter's political career?) doesn't invite him to stay for dinner; a wartime outrage is avenged on a Belgrade street; a village of new, modern houses comes alive once a year--when the men return from German factories at Christmas. The 1965 economic reforms, Doder discovers, introducing a free market and top-to-bottom ""self-management"" (region to factory to shop), have brought prosperity and a measure of personal freedom. Added to Tito's unifying challenge to Russia, they eased ethnic tensions between Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians (""there is in fact no such thing as a Yugoslav"") and stimulated cultural expression in a country which, apart from folk arts and crafts, had no national culture. But the very swiftness of Yugoslavia's advance from violent peasant backwater to modern world-state has created problems of identity and stability, and confronted the Communist Party with the necessity of responding ""to the people's aspirations without losing power in the process."" In the course of a long review of Tito's career, Doder cites the twists and turns of policy that have discredited ideology in Yugoslavia and elevated expediency to a fine art; he interviews leading dissidents--not only including Djilas--to establish the limits of permissible expression. And, peering into the future, he sees the Yugoslavs unafraid of the Russians, relinquishing their ethnic loyalties, clinging to their limited freedom--though what will replace Tito's ""brilliant balancing act"" he does not venture to predict. A rounded, informed, personalized overview, marred only by repetition, that gives a human dimension to the Yugoslav experiment.