Ideal type

Ideal type

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Ideal type also known as pure type, is a typological
Typification is a process of creating standard social construction based on standard assumptions. Discrimination based on typification is called typism.-References:*...

 term most closely associated with antipositivist sociologist Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

 (1864–1920). For Weber, the conduct of social science depends upon the construction of hypothetical concepts in the abstract. The "ideal type" is therefore a subjective element in social theory and research; one of many subjective elements which necessarily distinguish sociology from natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...


Ideal types

An ideal type is formed from characteristics and elements of the given phenomena, but it is not meant to correspond to all of the characteristic
Characteristic may refer to:In physics and engineering, any characteristic curve that shows the relationship between certain input and output parameters, for example:...

s of any one particular case. It is not meant to refer to perfect things, moral
A moral is a message conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim...

 ideals nor to statistical averages but rather to stress certain elements common to most cases of the given phenomena. It is also important to pay attention that in using the word “ideal” Max Weber refers to the world of ideas ( "thoughtful pictures") and not to perfection; these “ideal types” are idea-constructs that help put the chaos of social reality in order.

Weber himself wrote: "An ideal type is formed by the one-sided accentuation of one or more points of view and by the synthesis of a great many diffuse, discrete, more or less present and occasionally absent concrete individual phenomena, which are arranged according to those onesidedly emphasized viewpoints into a unified analytical construct... " It is a useful tool for comparative sociology
Comparative sociology
Comparative sociology generally refers to sociological analysis that involves comparison of social processes between nation-states, or across different types of society ....

 in analyzing social
The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms...

 or economic phenomena, having advantages over a very general, abstract idea and a specific historical example. It can be used to analyze both a general, suprahistorical phenomenon (like capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

) or historically unique occurrences (like Weber's own Protestant Ethics
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a book written by Max Weber, a German sociologist, economist, and politician. Begun as a series of essays, the original German text was composed in 1904 and 1905, and was translated into English for the first time by Talcott Parsons in 1930...


To try to understand a particular phenomenon, one must not only describe the actions of its participants but "interpret" them as well. But interpretation poses a problem for the investigator has to attempt to classify behavior as belonging to some prior "ideal type". Weber described four categories of "Ideal Types" of behavior: zweckrational (goal-rationality), wertrational (value-rationality), affektual (emotional-rationality) and traditional (custom, unconscious habit).
After Dirk Kösler the characteristically features of the “Ideal Type” are such that see It as a genetic notion, but it is not a hypothesis, although helps to systematize the empirical and historical reality. Quite important to notice is that the results of procedure through defining of ideal types are the process of constant changes and different interpretations because of historical changes as well as the necessity not to avoid the arising of new “Ideal Types”.

Therefore Weber, who is keenly aware of “Ideal Type's” fictional nature, states that the “Ideal Type” never seeks to claim its validity in terms of a reproduction of or a correspondence with social reality. Its validity can be ascertained only in terms of adequacy, which is too conveniently ignored by the proponents of positivism. This does not mean, however, that objectivity, limited as it is, can be gained by “weighing the various evaluations against one another and making a ‘statesman-like’ compromise among them”, which is often proposed as a solution by those sharing Weber's kind of methodological perspectivism. Such a practice, which Weber calls “syncretism”, is not only impossible but also unethical, for it avoids “the practical duty to stand up for our own ideals” [Weber 1904/1949, p. 58 in ]

Critics of ideal type include proponents of the normal type
Normal type
In sociology, the typological term normal type was coined by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies...

 theory. Some sociologists argue that ideal type tends to focus on extreme phenomena and overlook the connections between them, and that it is difficult to show how the types and their elements fit into a theory of a total social system.
H. Freyer, as Philosopher and Sociologist, and the first Bearer of the German professorship for Sociology in Leipzig, keeps the mind that the notion of “Ideal Type” is “a logical peculiarity of historical and cultural cognition” and “oversees the contrast of personal and general methods of thinking, on one hand, by defining the logical character in individual, and on the other, by progressing on the way to generalization only till showing the typicalness and not the pure general rule”.
First of all Freyer tries to underline that “first basic considerations” about “Ideal Type” were formulated from Weber for the adaption of historical types, considering that in the history “the cognition of appropriate connections and typical regulators – are just means, and not the aim of perfectly typical creation of conceptions”. Freyer ascertains that Weber speaks about “Ideal Type” in conformity not only with ideological, but also with nomotetical science, particularly sociology. Although by the Freyer’s interpretation of Weber the “Ideal Type” that, that projects sociology, must be as “pure” as possible in contrast to “Ideal Type” in the history, which presents a quite complexable conceivable formation because of its orientation towards the understanding of single historical appearance. But then in Freyer’s opinion that he attributes to Weber, arises the necessity to “accept the historical part even in very general sociological types”.
That is why Freyer tries to interpret Weber “Ideal Types” in the way that their sociological subcontext would be seen and which is supposedly concealed in their logical designed text. What Freyer tries to do in his critical statements is to show in what way the most abstract and universal sociological ideal types bare in themselves in form of their essential buildings a central of nonevident historical substance.

See also

  • Normal type
    Normal type
    In sociology, the typological term normal type was coined by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies...

  • Verstehen
    Verstehen is an ordinary German word with exactly the same meaning as the English word "understand". However, since the late 19th century in the context of German philosophy and social sciences, it has also been used in the special sense of "interpretive or participatory examination" of social...

  • Social action
  • Antipositivism
    Antipositivism is the view in social science that the social realm may not be subject to the same methods of investigation as the natural world; that academics must reject empiricism and the scientific method in the conduct of research...

  • Structure and agency
    Structure and agency
    The question over the primacy of either structure or agency in human behavior is a central debate in the social sciences. In this context, "agency" refers to the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. "Structure", by contrast, refers to the recurrent...

  • Tripartite classification of authority
    Tripartite classification of authority
    Max Weber distinguished three ideal types of legitimate political leadership, domination and authority:# charismatic authority ,# traditional authority and...

  • The Three Types of Legitimate Rule
  • Morphological analysis (problem-solving)

Further reading

  • Pawel Zaleski "Ideal Types in Max Weber’s Sociology of Religion: Some Theoretical Inspirations for a Study of the Religious Field", Polish Sociological Review No. 3(171)/2010

External links