McCarthyism has passed, but the fear of difference still remains a chronic disease of our policy. The American still equates political and economic conformity with patriotism. In this fascinating book one of America's most respected and controversial social critics depicts the lives of men whose heresies have been the growing point of society in the past--Socrates, Galileo, Thomas Paine, Wendell Phillips, and Gandhi. The standard he sets for his dissenters is high. Galileo's greatness is lost in part by his ""confession""; Thomas Paine's personality detracts from him as a man, but not as a dissenter. Only Gandhi is praised without qualification. It seems unfortunate that Mr. Thomas should feel compelled so frequently to reiterate his disgust for the Soviet system. The author does not attempt to analyze the contributions made by his dissenters. Nor does he explain his choice of men in more than the general criteria. He chooses to let the dissenters speak for themselves. If the book is neither creative nor original, the ideas presented by the dissenters are provocative. Recommended for the general reader.