Giving a panoramic view of Western civilisation, this study is based on the central role that the author believes fear and anxiety have played as the organising motives of human existence and social life. Hankiss argues that existential security has been a major factor in the generation of civilisations, perhaps even more important than the mainstream theories of culture offered by Kant, Freud and Foucault. In order to mitigate fear, human beings and communities have surrounded themselves in two ways. The first being through house and city walls, with instruments and weapons, laws and institutions. Secondly, with the protective sphere of symbols: myths and religions, values and belief systems, ideas and scientific theories, moral and practical rules of behaviour, and a wide range of everyday rituals and trivialities. Hankiss pays particular attention to the role of symbols and symbolic systems in contemporary societies.