This book aims to link the Communist experience to the theoretical debates on modernity. The most influential theories of modernity have taken surprisingly little interest in the problematic of Soviet-type societies, and recent events have highlighted the lack of conceptual framework for the interpretation of their history. The author tries to show that a revised concept of totalitarianism can be used to clarify the distinctive characteristics of the Soviet model as a pattern of modernity, rather than to construct an alternative to modernization theory. This line of argument is developed in relation to four main themes: the historical sources of the Soviet model, its institutional core, the differences between its original version and later variants (with particular reference to China and Eastern Europe), and the combination of structural and historical factors which brought about its terminal crisis. The theoritical model used throughout focuses on the changing configurations of economic, political and cultural patterns.