A heartfelt and perceptive analysis of what Guinness (Visiting Fellow/The Brookings Institute; The Gravedigger File, 1983, etc.--not reviewed) sees as the cultural crisis facing America today. Americans, says Guinness, view their country as much as a sacred creed as a physical place--but this creed, he contends, is dividing the nation much as slavery divided it during the Civil War. ""At a certain point,"" Guinness says, ""the 'dissolution of faith's authority and disappearance of any positive force for truth and goodness turns into a high-density, negative, and devouring force for evil--in short, nihilism."" The author outlines the breakdown during the 60's of the previous decade's cultural consensus, and the reaction to this breakdown--selfishness and unproductive greed--during the 70's and 80's, calling for a reforged covenant, ""a modern form of 'federal liberty' that combines the beat, and avoids the worst, of the libertarian and communitarian visions."" Guinness's blend of erudition--he quotes sources from Paul ValÃ‰ry to The Congressional Record--and insight are thought-provoking: He suggests, for instance, that the radicalism of the 60's was not so much a reaction to conservatism as a response to the failure and illusions of mainstream liberalism. Guinness vividly portrays the anomic state of the nation today and projects the future role of religion. But ""this 'is not a how-to book,"" he notes. Ouite so: His brief prescriptive remarks, gathered under the rubrics of ""remembrance,"" ""repentance,"" ""resolution,"" ""responsibility,"" and ""realism,"" are unconvincing. At beat, a sophisticated analysis of a very real crisis, and an earnest plea for America to face some home truths; at worst, an experience akin to suffering from the blur of a 350-page Op-Ed piece.