Situated a mere 90 miles from Florida, Cuba has occupied an important place in American political and economic life from the Spanish-American War to the stand-off with Castro. This continuing involvement with Cuban affairs now has non-belligerent issue in an important new look at Cuba's political structure by Harvard's Jorge Dominguez. Although less than half the 1600 pages of Hugh Thomas' monumental Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom, Dominguez' book is nonetheless enormous and ambitious in its scope. Eschewing the narrative form of Thomas' work, he analyzes each of the three major periods in Cuba's post-independence political life--1902-33, 1933-58, and the socialist years. During the first period, he argues, American economic ownership and direct control over political affairs resulted in a ""pluralization"" of the polity, with a weak government and competing interests all seeking U.S. intervention. In the second period, when direct American imperialism gave way to indirect hegemony, continued pluralization resulted from American support for economic interest groups. Most of Dominguez' attention is focused on the last, and current period, which he sees as marked by the growth and centralization of the government, the influence of Soviet hegemony, and the new terms of political legitimization and conflict. But, he avers, these changes were built on pre-existing bases. Separate chapters cover political culture, the Communist Party, agriculture, social mobilization, etc., illuminating each aspect through the historical context of the whole study. A solid, scholarly work, and imperative for anyone who seriously wants to understand Cuba.