Mlynar, a Czech, was a key figure in the 1968 "Prague Spring," dragged by the scruff of the neck before Brezhnev and company after the Soviet tanks rolled. He had also been Gorbachev's closest friend when both studied law at Moscow University from 1950 to 1955. In the fall of 1993, about a month after Yeltsin blew up the Russian "White House" in his confrontation with parliament, Mlynar and Gorbachev sat down for the first of a six-month-long series of conversations, in which they ruminated about the subjects in the subtitle of this book. The conversations were recorded and published in Russian in 1995; now they are available in English. Of the two participants, Mlynar's reflections are less guarded and more precise. But Gorbachev adds enough beyond what he has already written to offer valuable insight into his intellectual evolution, down to and including his conception of socialism -- now that the version in which he had so long believed has perished.