The task of analyzing European society may be approached from many angles. The one chosen here is a global comparative perspective, an effort to step outside the tempting but myopic and often misleading familiarity of inside experience. Let us look at European society today as part of world history. What does it mean to grasp the present as history? It means to look out for how the current situation is related to the past, and, above all, to the future. We shall here try to locate Europe in the history of modernity, and, secondly, in the dynamics of the world systems, systems in plural, as I shall explain later.