There is today an outstanding need in sociology for more minute and comprehensive analyses of certain important phases of the social field than can be given in general sociological treatises or in the highly intensive studies in the special social sciences. The present study tries to do this for the neglected field of social institutions, the studies of which down to date, with one exception, have either been fragmentary and superficial, or highly specialized examinations of single institutions or closely related institutions. It seeks, in a comprehensive and systematic way, to get at the essential components of social institutions; to note certain aspects of their origin and evolution; to examine the way in which they develop their general and unique characteristics; to determine their connection with social values, the interplay between the individual and institutions, and the factors involved in their progressive adaptability.
Believing that the lines now drawn between the social sciences are largely arbitrary and artificial, and that an unfortunate departmental parochialism exists among them --whereas they are essentially a unity in which a division of labor is merely expedient--the author has not confined himself exclusively to the materials offered by sociology, but has drawn on all available pertinent sources. Furthermore, the materials herein presented are not intended for college students only; nor for sociologists particularly; but for all those who have an interest in social institutions, whether this interest is that of the social scientist or that of a member of one of the professions connected with institutions, or that of the intelligent layman who has a broad interest in all things social and who wishes to under-