This is the first extended text-based analysis of the social and political implications of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Arguments are primarily based on close readings of the first four Harry Potter books and the first two films - in other words, a "text-to-world" method is followed. This study does not assume that the phenomenon concerns children alone, or should be lightly dismissed as a matter of pure entertainment. The amount of money, media coverage, and ideological unease involved indicates otherwise. The first part provides a survey of responses (both of general readers and critics) to the Harry Potter books. Some of the methodological decisions underlying this study itself are also explained here. The second part examines the presentation of certain themes, including gender, race and desire, in the Harry Potter books, with a view to understanding how these may impinge on social and political concerns of our world.