Ideal type

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Ideal type


Influenced by Dilthe’s Historicism and Kant’s Rationalism, the important instrument or tool that Weber presented for sociological analysis,  named it ‘ideal type’. Weber presented the concept of ideal type in the year 1904 under an essay written under the title ‘Objectivity’. In this essay, Weber, referring to economic theories, wrote that in the analysis of economic phenomena, a more useful and scientific method than to make any conclusions on the basis of conjecture or empirical facts, is that we first construct some ideal types related to economic behavior. Take and then try to understand the nature of economic behavior on the basis of their similarity or dissimilarity with the present economic practices. Later, Debar considered the ideal type as an important tool of study and made extensive use of it in the analysis of social phenomena.

Explaining the nature of ideal type, it can be said that “ideal type is a structure of analysis which provides a parameter to the studyer to measure the similarity and difference from the real conditions”. It is necessary to note that the word ‘ideal’ is not related to any superiority or morality in ideal type. Therefore it is ideal because it is constructed on the basis of some real facts. The reality is that the scope of social behavior is so wide that all human behavior cannot be studied systematically. Sociologists have no such tool There is no such thing by which the authenticity of empirical facts can be understood on a logical basis.

In this situation, it is necessary that by logically choosing some major historical facts or patterns of behavior, such a criterion or model should be constructed so that a conclusion can be reached by comparing the present human behavior. On this basis it can be said that ‘ideal-type’ is a series of logically formed facts on the basis of which empirical facts are compared. For example, as a category, if we accept that organized exchange system, production of goods on a logical basis, organized system of sales, credit system, private property, division of labor and free trade are the main bases of capitalism. Then the form which will be formed from all these characteristics, we will call it the ‘ideal type of capitalism’. By comparison, it may be possible to find out how similar or unequal the present economic behavior is to this ideal type. On the above basis, Weber clarified that ideal type can also be called ‘Pare Type’.

This means that the characteristics by which an ideal type is formed are not the general characteristics but the basic and important features. The ideal-type is also pure in the sense that the elements involved represent the archaic characteristics of that form. It is also assumed that the elements that make up the ideal type are complete in themselves and a conclusion can be reached on the basis of them by comparison with other behaviors. can be easily understood from:



(1) Ideal-type is not a theory in itself but only a method of study. This system does not assume that all social phenomena are logical, although the ideal form itself provides a basis on which an observation or study can be rationalised. In fact, the most important task of social sciences is to gain observational understanding and critical understanding of social behavior. Ideal-type is the medium or tool by which such realization can be achieved.


(2) Ideal-type is a category of some logical and coherent behavior that cannot be found in any society in its pure form. .


(3) According to Weber, ideal type cannot be considered as any such theoretical hypothesis which can be proved or disproved by empirical facts. In contrast, a model is itself a model from which new hypotheses can be formed by comparing empirical facts.


(4) The nature of the ideal group is different from that of the ‘average type’. Ideal-type is qualitative by its nature. It is formed from those special elements which are of very specific and essential nature under a particular situation. The average type, on the other hand, is made up of some common features that are often obtained from statistical calculations during the course of the study. That is why the ideal type is called the ‘Conceptual Construction of Analysis’. .


(5) Creating an ideal is not a goal in itself but a means only.

With the help of which the current behavior is analyzed. It can be called neither historical reality nor empirical reality. It is a category of selection of logical facts only.


6) Model-types related to each situation or area may be different from each other. They have nothing to do with morality or immorality. It means that where the economic system, political system, religious practices

Or there may be some ideal types of family, while ideal types can be created in the field of brothel and crime also. All such model-types are used to compare current practices from a specific theoretical category.


(7) The nature of a model as a component of comparison is very stable, but no ideal is completely immutable. The ideal forms of different periods may differ from each other because their conditions are different from each other.


(8) The elements that make up an ideal-type are not related to every characteristic of that ideal-type, but only to some of the more important and essential characteristics. Weber, along with explaining many characteristics of ideal type, also clarified its three types.

(a) Ideal-types of the first category are those which are constructed from certain historical realities. For example, Protestant ethos, modern capitalism or Western cities are similar ideals that can be constructed by a logical choice of certain historical realities.

(b) The second type of ideal-types are related to those historical realities which contain many qualitative elements and which can be observed from any historical and cultural perspective. For example, feudalism or bureaucracy are such ideal-types.

(c) The third type of ideal-types are those which are constructed on the basis of the rational structure of certain types of behaviour. Weber states that most of the assumptions related to economic theories explain such ideal types. It is clear from these three types of ideal-types that the ideal-types which Weber considered important for sociological analysis are related to the first and second types.



Weber has also given some functions of ideal form as a tool of sociological analysis. These functions are mainly three which are as follows:


(1) The first function of the ideal type is to provide a systematic basis for the classification of events. In this regard it is necessary to note that ideal-type does not mean any concept. For example, status roles, miraculous beings and groups are some of the concepts of cable. Conversely, a model can be said to be a pattern or a complex of many related factors that include many concepts. It is clear that with the help of each model, it becomes easy to classify social phenomena.


(2) The second type of ideal type is to find those factors which explain the nature and extent of the deviation arising in a baseline condition. When we construct an ideal type by taking logically meaningful verbs, it becomes easy to know how some other action was more or less logical than the ideal type. Thus the ideal type provides a firm basis for comparison. For example, if we build an ideal type on the basis of the original ideology and objectives of a sect, then it can be easily understood that how related or unrelated the activities of the organizations belonging to that sect are to their original ideologies and objectives.


(3) The third function of ideal type is related to theoretical analysis. This means that social events can also be predicted on the basis of the ideal type. Weber says that by considering the ideal type as a model, we can predict the change that will happen in a particular situation. For example, capitalism and Protestant ethics are the two main ideals whose By establishing mutual relations, it can be predicted that in which country of the world capitalism is more likely to develop. Thus it becomes clear that the norm-type is a model criterion for the analysis of specific human behaviours. By comparing it with this criterion or model, it can be known what characteristics present human behavior exhibits. This is the basis which can make sociological theoretical discussions more systematic.




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