Many people have helped me in the course of writing this book, especially all those who constituted my network of e-mail correspondents. As I wrote from the traditional isolation of a Paris flat, I was conscious that I was one of the first generation of writers to be involved in continuous electronic dialogue with readers all over the world. This tension between stability and movement seems to have worked for me. I hoped to keep a record of those exchanges over 2-3 years; but my laptop computer was stolen not long ago.  I would like to express my gratitude here to all those who kept me going with their comments when transhumance made their disembodied conversation the mainstay of my social life. These stalwarts of e-mail dialogue, all of whom stimulated fresh thinking and nourished me with their friendship, included: Bob Dewar, Meraud Grant Ferguson, Heonik Kwon, Ted Leggett, Joanna Lewis, William Mazzarella, Alex Ouroussoff, Ato Quayson, Alison Richard, Don Robotham, Carol Upadhya, Huon Wardle, Eric Worby.

Jack Goody would not claim responsibility for me; but I know what he gave. Anna Grimshaw helped me recover from the dark years. Peter Clarke showed the way from scholarship to the general public. Vishnu Padayachee, intellectual companion, was the benign face of macroeconomics. Marilyn Strathern gave me encouragement at the right time. John Thompson commissioned the first, aborted version of this book. Jean-Michel Kerr, software developer and green politician, made our brief encounters count. Don Billingsley, an American in Paris, had faith in me. Simon Schaffer, Renaissance man, put me onto the key to John Locke and gave me glimpses of his own vision. Jim Murray, fellow C.L.R. James buff, reminds me that America is the world. Frances Pine and Helen Watson took collegial friendship to hitherto unknown regions.

Paula Uimonen, ethnographer of cyberspace, shared with me her knowledge and belief. Tobias Hecht, writer and student of humanity, offered advice on how to bridge genres. Caspian Richards knows how intensive and rewarding our exchanges have been in this period. Matthew Engelke, publisher of Prickly Pear Press, has shown his friendship in more ways than I can say. Philip Fergusson, NGO pioneer, has offered me theoretical and practical guidance where I most needed it. My most recent PhD students, Brian Alleyne and Knut Nustad, have given me the invaluable support of their enthusiasm and criticism.

Ruth Van Velsen has been a constantly reliable ally in these years of upheaval. John Bryden, my old friend and laird of the Highlands and Islands, helped me to escape from Cambridge. Patrick Verdon is my inspiration and source of whatever IT competence I have acquired. Gabriel Gbadamosi, for whom these years have not been easy, was always there. Louise Hart kept my spirits up with her shining progress. Sophie Chevalier was my anchorage.

In the preparation of the book, I would like to thank Sunil Khilnani for his example and for making the publishing connection. John Tresch found the title. Ruth Van Velsen proof-read the manuscript. Cathy Alexander was typically generous at the end, giving my tables “the Coopers look” and much else. Terry Roopnaraine lent his home, technology and unstinting support to help me finish the job. My association with Peter Carson and the crew at Profile Books has been short-lived and happy. I never dreamed that, after such a long gestation, the process of realising this book in print could have turned out to be so streamlined (fingers crossed at the time of writing).

I lost my sister and a close friend while I was writing this book, both of them, it seemed to me, well before their time. I had hoped to share my old age with Janice, who meant more to me than I ever told her. Skip Rappaport gave me the example of his own great book which I helped to bring to print; but again the loss of his presence in the world has at times been unbearable.

August 1999

The river of time carries its own banks along with it.
Robert Musil