Ideal type

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In the theory of science, an ideal type (also: ideal type ) is a purposefully constructed term that orders and grasps sections of social reality by emphasizing and often deliberately exaggerating the essential aspects of (social) reality. To this extent, it represents a thought or ideal image and accordingly distinguishes itself from the empirically average given real type .

The method of the ideal-typical procedure was introduced into sociology by Max Weber . Weber's methodology of concept formation is based on that of Heinrich Rickert , a representative of southwest German neo-Kantianism . In a non-specific sense, however, one can say today that the analysis of social reality with the help of ideal types is a common means of social science theory formation; Take the models in economics and sociology as an example .

Goals of ideal-typical concept formation

For Weber, the goal of the ideal-typical construction is to obtain distinct concepts with which empirical phenomena can be classified and understood from the point of view of their cultural significance. For him, the goals of ideal-typical concept formation lie primarily in " heuristics " (gaining new knowledge); In addition, he wants to train judgment (see below), and he wants to stimulate the formation of research hypotheses with ideal types .

Weber does not pursue an illustrative description of social events in the formation of ideal-type concepts, rather the ideal type is for him a "yardstick" against which real events are to be measured. The ideal type itself is merely “means”, “thought image” or purely “ideal borderline concept” in order to be able to grasp reality analytically and clearly.

Construction of an ideal type

Max Weber describes the ideal type as a “one-sided increase in one or several aspects”. The construction of an ideal type takes place a priori by abstracting conceptually and factually from features of social reality, consequently modeling takes place. Weber takes a strictly individualistic approach and asks about the motives of the individuals who take action . These motifs are used by the researcher "interpreting" in order to be able to " understand " (social) action . In order to form an ideal type, the researcher abstracts from the observable actions and motives of the individuals; a coherent system of statements is constructed. This system of statements is idealized and logically coherent.

Alexander von Schelting points out that an ideal type, which is based on the (causally adequate) understanding of the actor's motives, logically represents something completely different from an ideal type which analyzes (unreal) contexts of meaning and value.

Theory and experience

Weber repeatedly emphasizes that he sees sociology as an empirical science.

Since, on the other hand, motifs are not accessible to direct observation, the sociologist has to “interpret”, “understand”. We can “understand” the behavior of people through meaningfulness - we cannot “understand” the behavior of (biological) cells, we can only grasp it functionally (cells have no motives). Weber sees, in the sense of the meaning, an "additional performance" of the interpretive explanation compared to the empirically observational explanation. However, this is bought “by the much more hypothetical and fragmentary character of the results to be obtained through interpretation” (W + G §1).

Weber argues several times that the ideal type has a dual purpose. On the one hand, it serves as a "yardstick". On the other hand, it involves the comparison of an ideal-typical construction with an empirically determined situation from which he then wants to derive causalities (history) or regularities (sociology, economy).

Examples of an ideal type

Weber gives various examples in his main work, Economy and Society . a .:

  • Apparatus of domination : the ideal type of differentiation between legal, of traditional and charismatic domination .
  • Stock market panic : Ideally, stock market events can initially be constructed in a purposeful manner. It is shown how an exchange works on average or normally, i. H. without irrational affects on the part of the actors. Only then are the irrational components introduced as disturbances.
  • Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke and Ludwig von Benedek German War 1866: First of all, it must be determined how each of the two generals would have acted purposefully (!) With full knowledge of all information in order to successfully defeat the other (= ideal-typical course). Only then can it be determined in a second step how both actually acted, taking into account incorrect information, errors, thinking errors, etc. From this difference Weber wants to determine by causal analysis why Moltke ultimately won the battle of Königgrätz or the war.
  • Bureaucracy .

"Correctness rationality"

In “objectivity”, rational action is still based on the concept of “correctness rationality”. The individual acts “correctly rationally” if his actions are oriented towards “objectively” correct value ideas (culturally specified goals, eg: “Germany as a great power”). Since these value ideas evade objective treatment in the sense of ideal purposes (“meaningless”), Weber dropped this term again. There is no such thing as an objective spirit - at least not with Max Weber. Ideal types are therefore not to be understood and constructed in the sense of an ought - not even an ethical ought - but purely in the sense of subjective meaning (interests, self-interest = rational).

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: ideal type  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: ideal type  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl-Heinz Hillmann : Dictionary of Sociology (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 410). 4th, revised and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-520-41004-4 , p. 348 (Stw. Idealtyp ).
  2. Wolfgang Schluchter: The Development of Occidental Rationalism. An analysis of Max Weber's social history. JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck): Tübingen 1979, ISBN 3-16-541532-3 , p. 22, note 1
  3. Max Weber: Collected essays on the science of science. 3. Edition. Tübingen 1968, pp. 190ff.
  4. Max Weber: Collected essays on the science of science. 3. Edition. Tübingen 1968, p. 191.
  5. Alexander von Schelting: Max Weber's science theory. Tübingen 1934, p. 73.
  6. ^ Renate Mayntz : Max Weber's ideal type of bureaucracy and organizational sociology. In: Renate Mayntz (ed.): Bureaucratic organization. Cologne / Berlin 1968.