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Ideal Type

Max Weber (1864–1920) coined the concept “ideal type” as a methodological device within his brand of “interpretive (verstehende) sociology.” Both concepts—ideal type and interpretive sociology—have given rise to grave misunderstandings. The word ideal, to begin with, has nothing to do with the colloquial adjective ideal, as in “He is an ideal husband, she is an ideal teacher.” Colloquially ideal is a normative value judgment. Weber, however, meant by ideal type what he also called “pure type,” a concept that is strictly analytical—an artificial construct that does not contain any value judgment about reality. On the contrary, ideal types are predominantly ruled by the rationality of logic. They are indifferent as to positive or negative value judgments. “There are ideal types of brothels as well as ...

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