Saturday, 28 August 2021

Max Weber - Ideal Type

The Ideal Type

The ideal type is one of Weber’s major concepts. It has according to him “no connection at all with value judgements, and it has nothing to do with any type of perfection there than a purely logical one.” There are all sorts of ideal types “of brothels as well as of religions.” It is “methodological device.” “Its function is the comparison with empirical reality in order to establish its divergence or similarities, to describe them with the most unambiguously intelligible concepts, and to understand and explain them casually.”

“An ideal type is formed by the one-sided accentuation of one or more points of view and by the synthesis of a grant many diffuse, discrete, more or less present and occasionally absent concrete individual phenomena, which are arranged according to those one-sidedly emphasized viewpoints into a unified analytical construct.” An ideal type “can never be found” as such in reality. It does not correspond to concrete reality.

The ideal type, Raymond points out, is “related to the notion of comprehension, in that every ideal type is an organization of intelligible relations within a historical entity or sequence of events.” It is “related to a characteristic of both our society and our science, namely the process of rationalization. The construction of ideal types is an expression of the attempt characteristic of all scientific disciplines to render subject matter intelligible by revealing (or constructing) its internal rationality.” It is related to the analytic and partial concept of casualty. It helps us to understand historical elements of entities.

The Three Types of Ideal Types

Weber has provided three types of ideal types, which according to Lewis are “distinguished by their levels of abstraction.” 

The first is the ideal type of historical particulars, as Raymond describes them. These historical particularities such as “the Protestant Ethic” or “modern capitalism”. A phenomenon like these appears only in specific historical periods and in particular cultural areas. Commenting on it, Raymond observes that ideal type of historical particular “remains a partial reconstruction since the sociologist selects a certain number of traits from the historical whole to constitute an intelligible entity. This reconstruction is only one among many possible reconstructions and the whole reality does not enter into the sociologist’s mental image.”

The second type designates the abstract element of the historical reality. It includes institutions like ‘bureaucracy’ or ‘feudalism’. These are not specific phenomena. These may occur in a variety of historical and cultural contexts.

The third of the ideal type, according to Raymond “includes those that constitute rationalizing reconstruction of a particular kind of behaviour. For example, according to Weber, all propositions in economic theory are merely ideal-typical reconstructions of the ways men would behave if they were pure economic subjects. Economic theory religiously conceives behaviour as consistent with its essence, this essence being defined in a precise manner.”

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