Ideal Types

Max Weber described his social science as a science of reality. But for Weber, the empirical reality of social life cannot be grasped in full and understood directly because social life is characterized by vast numbers of actions and events, meanings and ideas, social relationships, and forms of collective organization, all of which change over time and vary from one social or cultural context to another.

Still, Weber argued that this boundless variety can be intellectually ordered for social scientific purposes through the construction and use of concepts he called ideal types, which synthesize empirical reality by accentuating and even exaggerating individual aspects of reality into a unified and consistent mental image. In this way, only those aspects of empirical reality are incorporated and accentuated that ...

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