Within the political and social turbulence of eastern Europe, intellectual elites have propounded the concept of a "civil society" to replace communism as the key link between the individual and the state. First articulated in the debates on Christian natural law three centuries ago, it has appeal today in Israel and, according to the author, among his contemporaries in Budapest and Los Angeles, where he has resided. This provides a basis for his discourse on Western political thought and the nature of "postmodern" society in industrialized nations. The discussion is erudite, humane and replete with intriguing insights. Surprisingly, Seligman concludes that "civil society" as an idea is an inadequate model for structuring a new social order.