MAX WEBER'S IDEAL TYPE
I. The Historical Background of the Ideal Type
A. Empirical studies, to be valid, must be carried out on the
basis of sound methodological principles. The natural
scientist, for example, adheres to definite procedures of the
scientific method. If study in history and the social
sciences is to deserve th name of science, it too must be
carried out in accordance with scientific methods and spirit.
B. Early sociologists such as Comte aimed to establish socilogy
as a science of humanity in contrast with a kind of philosophy
of history based on theological-philosophical theories. Some
of these sociologists were strongly influenced by the exact
sciences, particularly by the theory of evolution.
C. Weber was in full agreement with the aim of making socilogy--
and all athe social sciences-- an empirical science. For him,
philosophy, metaphysics, and a philosophy of history were not
D. Weber was fully aware of the great difficulty of creating a
scheme of conceptualization in the social dciences comparable
to that of the natural sciences. Historical-social reality
presents grave difficulties for onw hwo would make scientific,
conceptual sense of it. It is characterized by infinite
complexity, by great significance adhering to individual
happenings, by our inability to control and ecperiment with
human behavior, and by our need to understand the subjective
meaning of human action. It is also very difficult for the
social scientist to be objective in his study of human affairs
since the objects of his study; are quite inseparable from
E. Therefore, though Weber insisted upon objectivity inthe social
sciences, he thought that within the vasic spirit and
principle of science generally, the social sciences would have
to create new specific methods peculiar to themselves to bring
order out of chaos as they studied social-historical reality.
The general, abstract laws of the natural sciences would not
work in the study of society in Weber's view. Weber created a
new form of concept which he called the ideal type.
II. Two Examples of Max Wever's Ideal Type (The content of ideal
types are drawn from empiricial reality.)
A. Capitalism (Characteristics of Capitalistic systems essential
to the formation of the ideal type)
1. Appropriation of the goods of production
2. A free market
3. A rational technique of production
4. Rational, dependable law
5. Free labor
6. Commercialization of business
7. Separation of business from household
8. Accounting systems
9. Spirit of capitalism
a. Work for work's sake
b. This-worldly asceticism
c. Impersonal relations
e. A methodical, systematic, reckoning attitude
B. Bureaucratic Structure (Features of rational bureaucratic
1. A continuous organization of official functions bound
2. A specific sphere of competence.
3. The organization of offices follows the principle of
4. The rules which regulate the conduct of an office may
be technical rules or norms.
5. It is a matter of principle that the members of the
administrative should be completely separated from
ownership of the means of production or
6. A complete absence of appropriation of his official
positions by the incumbent.
7. Adinistrative acts, dicisions, and rules are
formulated and recorded in writing.
III. How Ideal Types Are Formed
A. Let us first consider how an ideal type is formed. Weber was
very interested in modern capitalism, believing with Mars that
it was a domminant force in the shaping of Western
civilization. Insread of searching for abstract, general laws
to explain capitalism, Weber studied the phenomenon itself in
various cultures and historical epochs. (He was an
economist). He found that industrial capitalism functioned
best where certain rational (reckonable) factors were present
in the economy in society. These elements he put together
into a logically consistent whole -- an ideal type. This then
became a model by which he could measure or interpret or gain
a perspective of the nature of capitalism at any givern time
and place where the facts were known.
B. This model or type has several characteristics:
1. The elements of the type are taken from reality are
observed in history and in society. This is essentially a
a. Differentiation. This is the process of becoming
aware of details in what was up to then an
undifferentiated general experience.
b. Integration. This is the process of putting together
systematically parts of earlier experiences that have
become sufficiently differentiated to stand out, and
that can be related to each other in various ways.
c. Abstraction. This is the process by which
characteristic of reality are separated from specific
objects and recognized as qualitative aspects of many
d. Generalizations. This process involves picking out of
a large number of experiences tha significant common
meanings that persist and seem not to by changed by
2. The charactereistics are put together into a consistent,
logical whole. Thus, the characteristics is "taken away"
from the object or action, combined with other