A florid essay intended to untangle the various conceptions of consensus which underlie appraisals of the Johnson years. Much of the book is devoted to a selective, somewhat pretentious, history of the notion of consensus, from the Stoics through Calhoun and Lincoln to the attitudes of latterday American intellectuals. There is also a full account of Humphrey's thirteen-year effort on behalf of arms control. The two chapters dealing explicitly with LBJ fail to fulfill the book's analytic purpose, or even to explain why the word consensus ""became cause for a smirk."" We are left with some resonant generalities; but the philosophizing (about social contracts, majority rule, etc.) serves rather to decorate than to illuminate the topic. Despite the allure of the title, little original insight here into the fundamental conflicts of the past five years.