This chapter begins by introducing the broad argument that drives the analysis in the book. In short, the good life requires effective large-group cooperation, and that, in turn, requires a high-trust society. Culture matters most because it is the surest way to produce a high-trust society. How culture helped shape our species is discussed. The close relationship between culture and religion is discussed. Culture is then contrasted with institutions in order to highlight the limitations of purely institutional theories of social, political, and economic development. Reasons for continued resistance to cultural explanations for the differential success of societies are discussed. The plan of the book is then presented.
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