This is the story of the journey of an idea - that of engineering a society conceived as an organism - from its roots in the romantic movement with Michelet to Lenin, the ultimate man of action, on the threshold of power. Only Edmund Wilson, whose erudition as an autodidact was unsurpassed in his time, could have pulled this off: the ideas and inspiration pulse with life on every page. You get to know Marx, ENgels, and scores of other characters intimately as they dream of building a socialist order that would fundamentally re-order society and its economy. WHile I was never a sympathiser for communism, this most certainly gave me a feeling for the seductive beauty of the dream. THere is even a forward by Wilson, who admits to being overly optimistic, that what he chronicled with such excitment actually led to "one of the most horrible tyrannies in the history of mankind." THis is intellectual history at its very best, freed in the hands of a master writer from the pedantry and puffery of academia, and unflinching in the audacity of its partisan interpretations. Also beautifully written, it is a window into the hopes and dream of the 20C.