Thisbook is the fruit of a number of years of assimilating another culture and learning about the evolution of its institutions, altogether an incr- iblyrich andrewarding experience. Ihopetopassonto the reader some of that richness in the belief that, even in a “globalizing” context, learning about other nations and cultures is more and more necessary. The reasons andvalues behind this belief are perhaps evident,but I amconvincedthat they bear repeating here. To begin with, the hasty generalizations that often liebehind the cynicism—and ultimately the violence—of ethnocentrism and xe- phobia are still being aired today and still need to be fought, even in “unified and advanced” regions of the world like Europe and the United States. The historical and social sciences disciplines need to be solicited constantly in this combat, even though they themselves are terrains of controversy and contestation. I personally have not lost faith in their “progressive” potential and character. Second, my belief is that only through this process of appeal to these disciplines and their findings can we resist a dangerous contemporary slide into simplisticand sensation- ist pictures of the world—viewpoints often associated with an implicit assumption that social and economic change are linear processes, so- how unfolding according to the same neat “logic” wherever they are at work.