This is actually one of my favourite books. It was written in the late 1970s when militant feminism was perhaps far more in the public eye than it is today. So it was hugely topical then (much SF literature is topical, despite being set in the future); less topical now, perhaps: but the issues raised have merely gone underground, not disappeared.
The utopian planet of Pacifica has electronic democracy, a caring but laissez-faire government, and a harmonious equality of the sexes. They are incredibly media-savvy (everyone is on the net), and their electronic media exports to the rest of the galaxy are the backbone of their economy. Their peaceful existence is shattered when 2 ships arrive in-system, and suddenly the 'Blue and Pink war' hits the airwaves.
The Transcendental Scientists believe that mankind has a destiny and that science & technology can make us gods. Unfortunately, the 'man' in 'mankind' means just that - women are deemed to have less aptitude for science and therefore tend not to make the grade in the Technocrat's brave new world. Their astounding technology - several centuries in advance of conventional science - is too good to be refused - but is never freely available on the open market. So a planet must make a Faustian pact with them: become like them or become a primitive technological backwater.
The Femocrats are militant lesbian feminists who hail from Earth, which has nearly been shattered and poisoned by years of wars. When Earth civilisation almost collapsed the women took over power. Men have been downbred, only a few kept for breeding purposes. All women are lesbians, and psychological therapy is mandatory for those who have atavistic urges for sex with men. The Femocrats see the Technocrats as an evil that wishes to perpetuate male domination and the inevitable war and suffering it implies.
Both sides flood the media with their propaganda, immediately polarising Pacifican society. Carlotta Madigan, chairman of Pacifica, and her closest political ally (and lover) Royce Lindblad are facing a critical issue: how to fight this media war that now places Pacificans in vehement opposition to one another without destroying the very fabric of Pacifican society? Simply expelling both sides would work in the short term if (and it's a big if) they could persuade people to vote for it. But the loss of the technocrat technology would inevitably mean complete destruction of the Pacifican economy. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
This is a very entertaining book. A psycho-sexual media war sounds like pretty heavy going, but Norman Spinrad writes with a light touch and keeps it all very entertaining and - dare I say it? - enjoyable, even as we see relationships poisoned by the propaganda.
I still think the core issue is topical today, although perhaps the public battleground has shifted away from militant feminism onto the eco and anti-capitalism movements. Men do have a Faustian tendency, a desire for domination and unlimited knowledge that is generally not present in women. But as the feminist writer Camille Paglia stated, "If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts." We all love our technology: do you fancy an operation without anaesthetic? Want to give up electricity and use animal-fat candles for lighting? No, I thought not. But how do we get those without selling our souls to the devil, like Faust does? You can read this book just for entertainment value, but there are also thought-provoking issues there if you want.