As in all peripheral countries of Europe, Polish intellectuals - conservatives, liberal, and (later) socialists - quarrelled about whether the Western model of liberal progress and industrial civilisation would suit and benefit their nation, or whether it would spell the ruin of its distinctive cultural features. This book tells the story of a century-long Polish dispute over the merits and demerits of the Western model. The debate revolved around several pairs of opposing ideas: native culture vs cosmopolitan civilization; natural vs artificial ways of economic development; Christian morals vs capitalist laissez-faire; traditional customs vs mobile society; romanticism vs scientism, and so on. It is these various aspects of the main issue which the author analyzes and links together in this work. He shows how difficult and painful the process of modernization was in a nation deprived of its political independence and cultural autonomy.