Collected here for the first time are a number of important essays that Birnbaum has written over the last twenty years, ranging from such compelling topics as sociology to post-Marxism to education. Two questions inspire these essays. If thinkers are prisoners of their political contexts,how can thought apprehend historical movement? Can moral imagination alter social constraints? Birnbaum sees sociology as historical and philosophical commentary, shaped by politics. In close and subtle examinations of the Marxist legacy, he makes innovative analytical moves and turns Marxism uponitself. His investigation includes an essay on the Marxist theory of religion proving that it is a major contribution to the debate on society and spirituality. An inquiry into the antithesis of Marxism and psychoanalysis asks if any project of human self-transformation is still plausible. In anessay dated 1984, he anticipates the collapse of the Communist regimes and new conflicts in the West. In a stringent article written after the sixties, but which speaks to the nineties, he considers the technocratic servitude of the liberal university. Finally, he describes the contradictoryadvice offered to President Mitterand when he convened the world's intellectual vanguard in Paris in 1983. Birnbaum concludes, half in melancholy and half in hope, that intellectual inquiry's critical tasks are unending.